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Tuesday, October 3, 2006

   naruto fanfic
a fanfiction i have worked on ffor awhile enjoy

Chapter 1: The Ultimate Sacrifice
A blonde shinobi walked through the dark noisy streets of Konoha as the rain slowly swathed his body. He kept on walking to his destination not taking notice of the harsh weather as he was deeply enveloped in thought. He had shouldered an unimaginable burden for the protection of this village. Its populace had shunned and hated him yet he still yearned to protect them.
He had walked to the foot of a mountain which had the faces of the protectors of Konoha carved into them; a monument to the Hokages of Konoha. The dream of becoming Hokage and having his face carved into the monument seemed farther than ever. He looked at the five magnificently carved faces before his gaze settled onto the visage of the Sandaime, the first person to acknowledge his existence and show him some form of love. He began to climb without using his chakra and pushed his body to the limits scaling the mountain with his bare hands yet desperately trying not to lose his grip off the slippery surface.
He finally made it to the top and looked back over the village of Konoha. He could see the all the lights in the village from the market streets to training grounds. The rain was relentlessly pouring down. The blonde shinobi looked on admiring the sight not caring about his drenched state. He walked until he was standing on top of the Yondaime’s head, the man who had died protecting this village and sealed a demon within him.
He collapsed on to the ground in a sitting position as the exhaustion of his body and the realisation of his situation dawned on him. He had lived a life that no child should have to live yet his experiences taught him wisdom which few people had. He closed his eyes to reminisce.
A boy of 12 walked into the Hokage’s office and looked at the old man sitting behind his desk. He had just learned that he was the container for the demon Kyuubi which attacked the village 12 years ago.
“Ah, Naruto-kun, please have a seat.”
Naruto complied with his request and sat down before hesitantly asking something which he desperately needed to know the answer to yet he was afraid as to what it might be. He was staring into the eyes of the man who had made his life somewhat bearable and shown him love. “Sandaime-jiji…do you hate me for what I am?”
The Hokage looked at the boy’s eyes full of remorse and hurt before he got up and motioned for the boy to follow. The blonde haired child followed him hurting from the lack of an answer. They walked to the back of the Hokage tower until they were on a large balcony foreseeing the monument to the Hokages.
“Naruto, do you know who these people were?”
He looked at the old man dubiously before he voiced his reply, “Of course, they were the Hokages of Konaha, those who had respect and recognition.”
Sandaime looked at the boy, “Being Hokage earns you respect and recognition but it also means that you must protect what you hold precious with every fibre of your being. As a Hokage you shoulder a heavy burden with the task of protecting your village. That is something you hold in common with the Hokages.”
Naruto looked down refusing to let any tears escape from his eyes, before Sandaime continued, “You bear the burden of Kyuubi. Everyday you protect Konoha by refusing the demon freedom…You asked whether I hate you.”
Sandaime walked over to Naruto until he was directly standing in front of him and placed his hand on his shoulder, “I have always accepted you Naruto for what you are, a hero to this village.”
A huge smile spread across the blonde boy’s face before he hugged the old man who was like a grandfather to him.
End Flashback
Naruto opened his eyes as a single tear trickled down his cheek quickly mixing with the droplets of rain. He remembered the previous mission he partook in with some of the strongest shinobi in Konoha. The objective was to kill Orichamaru, and for him personally to fulfil a promise that he had made to a friend. The battle was fierce with some unexpected visitors which led to unexpected complications.
The team from Konoha consisted of the rookie nine along with their previous team leaders, Team Gai, the legendary Sannin Jiraiya and the Godaime herself. The battle would’ve been easier if it had not been for the interruption of three S-class criminals part of the organisation Akatsuki, Uchiha Itachi, Hoshigaki Kisame and Hidan. The mission of the Akatsuki was also to get rid of Orichamaru however due to the presence of Kyuubi’s container another priority was added to the list.
Naruto managed to stop Orichamaru from performing the technique required to take over Sasuke’s body. However everything broke out into a small war. Kakashi the former sensei of Team 7 along with Uchiha Sasuke engaged Itachi. At first Sasuke refused to have any help in defeating his brother and avenging his clan however he soon realised that he needed aid in order to survive the deadly force that was Uchiha Itachi. It was a tiring battle with colossal amounts of chakra dispersed and in the end Sasuke managed to land the final blow to end his brother’s life accomplishing his goal.
Team Gai fought Hoshigaki Kisame along with help from Inuzuka Kiba and Hyuuga Hinata however Kisame showed exactly why he was a member of Akatsuki when proving to be a formidable match. Team Gai gave everything they had to defeat their opponent which left them in near death states especially in the case of Maito Gai who opened several gates in order to kill the sword wielding warrior.
Hidan who had survived a previous battle with Konohas forces, which were led by Asuma, unlike his partner Kakuzu who was killed, now had the opportunity for a rematch. His opponents were Asuma and his team along with Yuuhi Kurenai and Aburame Shino. The Akatsuki member put up a strong fight injuring the Konoha-nins drastically however in the end the numbers game was even too much for him to overcome which resulted in his ultimate downfall.
Sakura engaged a fellow medic-nin and Orichamaru’s right hand man Kabuto in one on one combat. The fight was on equal parameters and Sakura showed how far she had developed her fighting skills under the tutelage of the Godaime nonetheless her brains were the deciding factor in the outcome of the battle as her quick thinking allowed her an advantage to finish Kabuto off once and for all.
Jiraiya and Tsunade fought their former team mate Orichamaru themselves displaying power worthy of their reputations as dominant forces. However the two Sannins had difficulty in defeating Orichamaru as they were long past their prime whereas their former team mate had time on his side. However Orichamaru’s overconfidence led to his downfall and painful death.
However the strongest and most formidable opponent who was not on the battlefield to begin with was left to face off against a shocked Naruto due to Orichamaru’s Kuchiose Edo Tensei technique which reincarnated the strongest shinobi to have ever been born into Konoha, the one who had chosen Naruto with the burden of Kyuubi, none other than the Yellow Flash of Konoha himself. The battle was protected by a seal made to prevent any others from interfering. Everybody who had finished their battles except for the Sannins looked on in horror as the emotionless shinobi proved to be too strong for Naruto quickly pummelling him into the ground and injuring him severely. However Naruto’s desperation made him call upon the power he refused to use, the power of the 9 tailed demon Kyuubi. Naruto underwent a transformation that had never before been witnessed. His body was swallowed in darkness as his face grew longer and canines grew. He howled in pain as 6 tails of chakra whirled around mercilessly. The transformation left Naruto looking more beast than human as he engaged in the second round of his fight with the Yondaime. The Yellow Flash however still managed to put up a fight quickly hurting the transformed jinchuriki even more as the transformation took its toll on Naruto’s body. The blonde boy of 15 unleashed his final attack on the Yondaime successfully dispatching the kunai lodged in his neck which made the Yondaime’s form fade revealing the Sound-nin used for the sacrifice.
Although the battle had been won the Leaf shinobi had been injured severely, the worst who was Naruto as blood sprouted from his beaten body. He was saved from certain death as the Godaime worked relentlessly to heal his wounds refusing to lose another precious person. Her work paid off as Naruto survived the fatal encounter and the shinobi returned to Konoha. It had been 2 weeks since he had recovered yet the other shinobi involved in the mission needed more time. Sasuke had returned and his punishment was severely reduced as he had helped to stop Orichamaru and killed the S-class missing-nin Uchiha Itachi. He was confined to the boundaries of Konoha to prove his loyalty before he would be able to partake in missions outside of the village. Today was the official celebration of the success of the mission as the knowledge of Orichamaru’s demise was made public. Everybody was overjoyed and the party was still happening. However on what should have been a glorious occasion the rain fell as if the sky were crying.
Uzumaki Naruto sighed as he inhaled the soft air surrounding him and looked at the thundering sky full of sorrow. The consequences of the battle had taken its effect on all the shinobi involved however the price Naruto had to pay was the ultimate sacrifice. He wiped the few stray tears from his face as he refused to give in to his sorrow. “You can come out now Ero-Sennin.” Naruto said impassively.
Out of the bushes behind him walked out a large man with long white hair and bandages holding his arm in a sling. The frog hermit Jiraiya looked at his student trying to figure out his predicament, “How come you’re not celebrating with the rest of your friends?” He walked over to his student and sat down next to him before the blonde haired shinobi replied.
“Shouldn’t you be asking yourself that same question?”
“I was celebrating until I recognised your absence.”
“You should carry on and not stop just because I wanted to be alone for awhile.”
“That’s the problem, why do you want to be alone? These past couple of days you’ve seemed less happy.”
“How would you know? I feel fine”
“Naruto…your mask may have fooled the others but I’ve been around you long enough to understand when you are hurt. Your eyes betray your actions.”
The teacher and student sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes enjoying the view in front of them as the wind rushed past them. The frog hermit laughed resulting in his protégé to look at him incredulously. “What’s so funny?”
“Oh nothing, it’s just that there are so many hot, wet women down there waiting to be stared at and I’m sitting here with my baka student. I must be getting senile.”
“Getting? You passed the point of being senile a long time ago Ero-Sennin.”
Jiraiya slapped his student across the back of his head, “Baka, you should show some respect to your sensei.” Naruto looked at the large man before laughing.
“Arigatou, Jiraiya-sensei…for always being there.”
Jiraiya looked at his student solemnly before a serious expression appeared on his face, “Why are you talking like this Naruto?”
“You once told me that for a shinobi, in every defeat there is victory for we learn something from our mistakes. The more we kill, the more we lose what makes us human as we lose the concept of exactly how precious a human life is…You also said that in every victory there is defeat as more blood stains our hands.”
Naruto rose from his position as he said this and walked away from where he was sitting moments before, while his back was still facing the frog hermit he continued, “I unleashed more Kyuubi chakra than I should have. The transformation left unrecoverable damage.” He sighed, “This victory resulted in the ultimate cost for me.” Jiraiya looked at his student with a shocked face as the realisation of what he meant dawned upon him.
Naruto turned to look at his mentor, friend and father figure with repressed tears, “I’m dying Ero-Sennin.” Jiraiya felt as if the weight of the world fell upon him. The death of his former student had a heavy impact on his life and resulted in him leaving the village. He didn’t want to experience another one of the people he held precious to lose their life prematurely but he couldn’t do anything about it. Jiraiya got up and walked over to the younger shinobi before giving him a one armed embrace. The rest of the village of Konoha laughed and danced the night away unaware of the price one shinobi had to pay as the sky continued throw the rain upon the noisy yet elegant streets of Konoha.

Chapter 2: Renewed Courage
The Godaime sat at her desk doing the paperwork required of her position contentedly; with the recent victory she felt good enough to do the generally harrowing task. She was still feeling the after effects of the party the night before with her headache far from gone. However what she didn’t realise was that her day was about to get a lot more interesting with the unusually silent arrival of a certain perverted hermit.
“Well isn’t this a rare sight, you’re actually awake and doing work.”
Tsunade looked up as a vein began to throb in her forehead, “What the hell do you want pervert?” Tsunade looked around to face the Sannin with an angry glint in her eyes.
“I needed to talk to you about something important. It is concerning Naruto.”
Tsunade felt the urge to strangle the author of the infamous Icha Icha Paradise fade while her mind got interested at the mention of Naruto’s name. She put her chin on her hands while her elbows rested on her desk before asking a question “Is it to do with why he wasn’t at the party yesterday? After all it is a little bit strange for the most hyperactive ninja to be absent from one of the biggest celebrations this village has had since I became Hokage.”
Jiraiya walked over to the seat across from her and sat down making himself comfortable before he voiced his answer, “No.” He lied with a simple yet firm response.
Tsunade sat back, “Well if you say so, but do you know why he was absent? I mean it’s not everyday that a super pervert like you gives up the opportunity to see women dancing in drenched clothes.”
Jiraiya's eyes showed a hint of sadness then perverted ness at the last part of the busty blonde’s words as he tried to imagine what he had missed. He quickly shook the thoughts away, “Ahem, I was absent because I had some personal business to take care of and Naruto went home to rest as he was tired.” Jiraiya hoped that his partial lie had worked as Tsunade raised one of her eyebrows questioningly before he continued,
“Even for a person with a high healing rate a battle can be tiring. That’s the last question I’m going to answer as this is beginning to turn into some sort of weird interrogation and I’m the one who came to ask you something.”
Tsunade looked at him as if to say ‘well, what the hell do want?’
“I wanted to know what Naruto’s diagnosis was after he left the hospital 2 weeks ago after all I’m his sensei and I needed to know whether he is fit for training.” Jiraiya was quick to add a reason to hide his true motives.
Tsunade simply began talking in a professional tone losing all informalities, “His diagnosis showed that medically he is at full health. He has made a complete recovery and his injuries have been healed. However due to the fatigue he had experienced from the battle, his body may have needed a couple more days to become fresh again. However he was discharged from the hospital 2 weeks ago which gave him the sufficient time required to return to 100 percent efficiency. But from the fact that he left early yesterday to respite is a possible indicator that he needs more time.”
Tsunade explained thoroughly yet simply for Jiraiya’s benefit showing her rare moments of calm and collected knowledge and also why she was chosen to be the Hokage of Konoha. Her eyes turned protective like that of a mother before she said her final statement, “I personally think it is best for him to take a little break from training. I believe it is in your best interest as well.” She sent Jiraiya a threatening glare.
Jiraiya got up and walked to the window, “That’s all I needed to know and don’t worry about the training. I’ll let him rest, he’s earned it. But before I leave…” Jiraiya looked back the sitting blonde woman with a perverted glint in his eyes, “How drunk were you yesterday?” As Jiraiya started to fantasise about a drunken Tsunade he failed to recognize the said person move from her seat and deliver a painful punch to his wrinkled features which sent him soaring through the window rapidly to an unknown destination.
As Tsunade managed to control her fuming anger she began to think rationally finally reaching the conclusion that she wasn’t told the entire truth by her perverted ex-team mate. She felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up as she began to wonder how well Naruto actually was.
Naruto was sitting at Ichiraku while eating his second helping of ramen relentlessly while the old man and his daughter Ayame carried on working not staring at the normally bewildering site that was Naruto eating ramen. However the slightly frightening spectacle was interrupted by a silver haired jounin with the all too familiar orange book in his hands.
“Yo,” he casually waved whilst walking in and sitting next to Naruto completely ignoring the coughing from the blonde genin who was desperately trying to stop choking. The former Anbu waited for his student to stop choking and the eventual outburst but it never happened. Naruto simply collected himself before asking him what he was doing here.
“I was just a little worried about your absence yesterday so I thought I’d come check to see if everything’s okay.”
The whisker marked boy looked at him quizzically before realising that the jounin wanted an answer, “Oh, yeah I’m great. I was just tired so I thought I’d rest up a bit.” The blonde boy finished paying for his meal leaving his sensei wondering whether everything in actuality was all right.
Naruto carried on walking towards his destination whilst remembering the earlier discussion he had with his residential demon in the morning.
Naruto found himself walking uncomfortably down the all too familiar pathways towards the Kyuubi. He surveyed the area through which he was walking through as it seemed even darker than usual since his last visit. He finally reached his goal as he stood in front of the large towering gates which separated him from the humongous chakra radiating evilness.
He sighed as he contemplated how to appropriately start his conversation with the proud demon. However he never had the chance to say anything as the familiar presence hidden by the gates walked towards him to become visible to the young ninja, “Well if it isn’t the foolish mortal. I wonder what could be so vital that I’m annoyed with your pathetic presence once again.” The towering Kitsune waited as if expecting some sort of response however none came.
“What’s wrong brat, run out of gas to fuel your weak insults.”
Naruto looked at the demon fox with blue eyes devoid of their usual energy and life, “I came to ask you why I’m not healing?” He kept on looking into the large eyes of the fox for a few minutes before he got a reply.
“You unleashed more of my chakra than your body could withstand. You’re still developing your chakra coils so they are weaker and more susceptible to damage. Unlike others, due to the seal placed onto you by that imbecile who sealed me, your coils are developing so they will eventually be able to withstand the power of my chakra. The seal was made so that your body would adapt to the state required in order to control my chakra before your and my chakra would finally begin to merge into one. However you stayed in your transformed state for too long which resulted in your insides being damaged beyond recognition. I’m using my chakra to keep you together but eventually the inevitable will occur.”
“I will die.” Naruto said sadly before he suddenly began to laugh, “Even though you don’t show it I know you’re hurt by this as well. After all it’s not everyday that you realise you’ve not got long left to live. You’re meant to be immortal but now you’re going to suffer the same fate as a pathetic mortal like me.” Naruto looked at the Kyuubi whose eyes were filled with unbridled anger. “Do you feel weak or maybe even helpless now?”
“At least I haven’t given up.”
“Maybe you should, after all there is one destiny that everyone shares and that is death.” As Naruto said this he felt his heart pang with hurt like never before.
“Listen to yourself. Since when have you ever believed in destiny?” the demon spat out in disgust.
“Since destiny dealt me the death card!”
“You’re pathetic! You always go on about never going back on your word and never giving up and here you are in front of me like the helpless child you were all those years ago. Have you forgotten your way of the ninja already? Have you forgotten your dream?” The demon Kitsune looked at the broken shinobi in front of him awaiting a response.
“How am I going to achieve a dream that seems farther now than ever? I haven’t forgotten my dream but I now realise its something that’s not supposed to happen.”
“You believe that you don’t control your own destiny. After all these years you’re going to lose faith in yourself and give up on living. Is this what you want? To prove to everyone that you are what you’ve tried your whole life to avoid becoming, a failure.”
Naruto looked up at the Kitsune as the word failure gripped his undivided attention.
“Your dream may seem unreachable now but do you want to be remembered for nothing at all. You want to give up on what time you have left and wallow in your misery. You may die but at least die with honour.”
Naruto looked into the Kitsune’s eyes as the demon showed him a side that he had never seen before or even know existed. The demons chakra flared before he continued.
“Remember one thing that may have passed your mind. The enemy is still out there and they’re still after my power. They won’t stop and they will come for you. Akatsuki may have been wounded with the loss of another three members but they’re still more than capable of unleashing destruction on this dismal village. They will kill all who get in their way, even your precious people. Are you going to sit idly by like a coward and let that happen?”
The demons chakra stopped flaring as he turned and began to walk in the opposite direction delving deeper into the dark confines of his cage until he was out of sight leaving a shocked and guilty Naruto contemplating his words. Naruto snapped out of his trance as the 9 tailed beast addressed him for the last time.
“You always seek acknowledgment, and you have gained that from few. You are hated by many yet you desire to protect all…I’ve never believed a human to be worth my respect…Yet…I have acknowledged you, however I am now beginning to think whether that was a mistake. Was it?”
Naruto looked in disbelief at the words of his dweller which he was noticeably hesitant to say from the tone evident in his speech. Naruto found himself being thrown from his mind as he regained consciousness.
End Flashback
Naruto kept on walking deep in thought about the Kyuubi’s words. He walked through the bustling market of Konoha where all the people were deep in converse or executing business. There were also people who were quite obviously still feeling the effects of the big celebration. He couldn’t help but smile at the peace the village was experiencing after such a long time.
He stopped for a moment looking at the monument to the Hokages in the distance before he made his way inside the Yamanaka’s flower shop and found his nose was instantly filled with various pleasant fragrances. He looked at the counter to see a previously bored Ino look up in amazement not believing who had walked through the door. “Naruto? What are you doing here?”
The blonde genin looked at her as if she was stupid, “You sell flowers don’t you?”
Ino just nodded her head before she asked, “But why do you need flowers? Is it to impress a certain forehead girl?” Ino playfully teased Naruto.
The blonde replied with a plain answer, “No.” He began to walk around the store observing various types of flowers, “They are for someone I have lost.”
Ino’s face revealed a saddened expression at Naruto’s words before she decided not to ask who it was bearing in mind his abnormally serious demeanour. She had never seen Naruto like this and she knew Naruto had been acting differently around his team mates as her best friend Sakura told her. She didn’t think it was possible for the usually glee filled prankster to act like this but now that she saw it with her own eyes she felt remorseful for him as to what might have made him become like this. She asked a serious question in a professional tone “Was the person really important to you?” Naruto looked at her quizzically before she continued, “It’ll help pick out the best flowers.”
He sighed, “He was my first friend, the first person to believe in me.” She nodded and made her way to the assortment of flowers. She picked up some flowers before she headed to the counter wrapping them up with Naruto waiting courteously.
She placed the packaged flowers on the desk, “I gave you luxurious, white lilies, simple yet elegant. They surround the orchids accentuating their effect. They’re perfect for you.”
Naruto payed her and gave her his thanks before he turned to leave. Ino quickly spoke before he left, “I’m really sorry for whatever’s happened but your friends miss you Naruto. The celebration yesterday wasn’t what it should’ve been without you.”
Naruto realised the care and genuineness in her statement before he turned to address her one last time, “I’m sorry for making you guys worry. It’s just that I’ve been really tired since the fight but I’ll be better in no time, I give you my word.” Ino felt better at his reassurance before she continued with her work.
Meanwhile Naruto continued walking until he arrived at Team 7’s training grounds. He began to think of all the memories he shared with his team. They were mixed feelings of positive and heart-rending moment but he had never let anything bring him down before.
The wind silently blew making its presence felt by ruffling the petals of the flowers he carried in his hands. He took in the beautiful sight of the sparkling river running under the bridge where his team would meet. He crossed over the bridge ultimately ending up at the grave of the first person to give him acceptance. He lent down on one knee, placing the flowers in front of the grace before running his hand over the name carved into the stone which read ‘Sarutobi’ as more memories of his teachings rushed his mind.
“You want to be strong Naruto. But remember one thing, learning all the ninja techniques in the world will not give you true strength.”
Naruto closed his eyes as tears threatened to spill while he remembered his first friend’s words.
“When you fight to protect those who are precious to you; that is when your true strength will manifest.”
Unexpectedly his mind was invaded by the earlier comments of Kyuubi.
“…They will come for you…”
He felt fear rush through his heart quickly being overshadowed with remorse.
“…They will kill all who get in their way…”
He felt regret running through his veins as his head began to ache and his blood began to boil.
“…Are you going to sit idly by like a coward…?”
He felt a warm substance protrude through his closed eyes running slowly down his cheeks as the tears of pain finally broke through. He braced himself as the final words of the Kitsune ran throughout his mind.
“…You may die but at least die with honour...”
He rose and lifted his eyelids with determination carved in his eyes as he felt the fire within him burn with newfound desire of proving himself. He looked at the memorial of the Sandaime whilst the tears previously running down his face had long since dried while his body gave off a boost of chakra filling him with confidence.
“…As a Hokage you shoulder a heavy burden with the task of protecting your village.”
He finally spoke with coolness etched in his voice, “You gave your life to protect everything that is important to you. You understood the risk and you fought with everything you had until the very end. You never gave up.”
“I have always accepted you for what you are…”
“I promise you old man…
“…a hero to this village.”
“…I will prove myself to be the hero you have always believed me to be. I will die protecting what I cherish most. If I am to die, I will die with honour.”
From a distance an onlooker looked on as he felt himself more emotional than he was used to being. He spoke with pride in his voice, “It is time Naruto. You are finally ready.”

Yondaime’s Legacy
A loud ringing sound resounded through the run down apartment of one Uzumaki Naruto as he groaned whilst sitting up. He looked through his bedside window to the streets of Konoha as the light of the sun slowly began to seep through the horizon. He had decided to get up at dawn to commence his rigorous training. He shifted out of his bed whilst only wearing boxers and made his way to the bathroom. He cleaned himself up and whilst brushing his teeth a messenger pigeon with a small scroll tied to its legs flew through his open window and rushed straight towards the open bathroom door before colliding headfirst into it with a reverberating sound as it slowly slid to the ground.
Naruto finished up brushing his teeth and knelt down to the dazed bird prior to undoing the scroll attached to it. He repressed a laugh at the declining quality of the methods used by the Hokage to send messages to shinobi. He let the recovered pigeon fly through his window whilst he opened the scroll making his way towards the petite kitchen of his abode. It was a simple summoning from the Hokage which required for him to be present at her office later in the evening. The scroll was burnt as the standard procedure required before he started eating breakfast and donned his usual black and orange attire.
The young shinobi had already thought of the techniques he planned to refine and decided to gain better control of his elemental affinity of wind. The sun had finally risen showering the streets of Konoha with light as Naruto made his way to his chosen training spot. The villagers were not expected to be awake at such an early time however shinobi’s were accustomed to rising with the sun as it helped improve their awareness of the time and stopped them from developing a habit of laziness. However this didn’t help his masked sensei with his tradition of always being late.
Naruto had finally arrived at the same training ground he was in a few weeks ago whilst training with Kakashi. The trees were flowing with the gentle breeze and the weather was perfect for training. He stared at magnificent waterfall created by Yamato by one of his demonstrations of elemental control. The flourishing green vegetation that had been created on the sides of the waterfall was still as lush as when he first saw it. He had decided to use this training ground as it was out of the way and isolated therefore there was a small chance of him being interrupted whilst training. It also had what was necessary for his training especially the waterfall as it would help him further elevate his chakra control to what he hoped would be Kage level.
It had been a day since he had hardened his resolve and he decided to train as soon as possible considering that he didn’t have much time. He was going to use the same method of training Kakashi had taught him since it would help him gain large amounts of experience in a short amount of time. He would use the Tajuu Kage Bunshin No Jutsu to create a large amount of clones and give them each separate tasks to perform. In the end when he would release the jutsu he would gain all the knowledge and experience of the clones. However he needed to be careful when performing this training as excessive mental fatigue could damage his mind. Hence he was going to slowly increase the time he would spend using this particular form of training slowly over time.
He performed the hand seals necessary before a mass of clones popped up as the large cloud of smoke dispersed. The clones standing in front of him observed him eagerly awaiting his instructions as they all were prepared to try their hardest. The miniature army of one thousand looked at Naruto when he addressed them, “All right, I want all of you to break into ten even groups,” No sooner had he said that, the clones quickly began to shuffle when several minutes later a ten groups of Narutos stood in front of him. “All right now I’m going to hand out each group different tasks to perform. You may have to understand how to use a jutsu better or you may have to improve your chakra control. The tasks will vary and some may be harder than others but their all equally important.”
The groups were named from one to ten before Naruto proceeded to handing them their objectives. The small army of Naruto’s immediately began training once they knew what they were supposed to be doing.
Group 1 had to try and walk up the waterfall using their feet in order to improve their chakra control and understanding. At first they completely failed and none of them could understand how to even walk up one foot of the waterfall however they soon started working together and now most of the clones were capable of making it 5 feet up the waterfall before they lost control.
Group 2 were struggling with their task as they had to practice meditation in order to be able to communicate with the Kyuubi without losing awareness of their surroundings. This was extremely hard as whenever they attempted to converse with the demon fox they ended up in the sewer like abode he was caged in.
Group 3’s task involved developing their kenjutsu skills by using the Kaze No Yaiba Jutsu. This would give Naruto a weapon and he also needed them to find out how long they were able to maintain the technique before the chakra drain became significant. Most of the clones were doing well and managed to retain the blade of wind’s shape and practiced their control with it however there were some clones that couldn’t control the amount of chakra they pushed into the blade resulting in one clone accidentally extending the sword and striking down a fellow clone.
Group 4 was figuring out attack formations that Naruto could use in battle whenever he used the Kage Bunshin technique. They were finding it hard having only come out with one formation that would be of any use so far.
Group 5 had to try and develop their understanding of the element of wind so that Naruto would be able to use it as efficiently as possible without wasting chakra. The hundred clones were sitting whilst contemplating some of their discoveries and some were talking together about it.
Group 6 were currently attempting to perform the techniques they already knew with one hand. This task was extremely hard and the whole group attempted easier techniques such as the Bunshin No Jutsu and Kawarimi No Jutsu.
Group 7 had the task of finding out how they could make themselves explode. The idea originally came to Naruto when he saw Uchiha Itachi using the technique in his battle against Sasuke and Kakashi. The group had split into two parties. The first party which had seventy five clones would give the remaining twenty five clones ideas on how to explode before they would attempt them seeing if they were successful.
Group 8’s task was to jump the final hurdle in mastering the Rasengan. This group was having the most success so far as they already understood all the basic principle’s of the technique.
Group 9 had the task of building their genjutsu defense since it was Naruto’s weakest attribute. He decided that even if he didn’t have any attacking genjutsu he would still need an unyielding resistance against them.
The final group of Naruto clones had the assignment of gaining more control of the newest technique that Naruto had added to his arsenal. This was an original technique which he had created whilst training with Kakashi and it was extremely destructive in power resulting in it being named a S-class technique. He had named it Yasha Kachuu. He released a large amount of chakra when utilising this technique and it was also the strongest technique he knew.
Naruto continued training ruthlessly for two hours straight before he finally released the Tajuu Kage Bunshin No Jutsu. The knowledge gained from the clones experiences bombarded Naruto’s mind as he felt himself drifting into unconsciousness however he never hit the ground as a hand gripped the collar of his jacket stopping him momentarily before.
In the dark confines of a cave 5 figures stood together in a meeting due to the recent developments. The members of Akatsuki all had serious demeanours.
“So, all three of them were killed,” The leader of the organisation stated as he was covered by the shadows of the cave refusing to reveal his appearance.
The man with the Venus fly trap like structure around his body and went by the name of Zetsu spoke, “I have retrieved all four rings like you asked for.” He then threw the rings to the leader who quickly caught them before replying.
“As long as we have the rings their death is no great loss.”
The man with the orange mask quickly spoke energetically, “I thought Kisame was quite cool. It’s a shame he had to die but that’s part of the job, eh?” this quickly earned him a smack from his blonde hair partner.
“You idiot pay attention to what’s important, yeah.” Deidara glared daggers at Tobi whilst he said this.
Zetsu looked at the two with conflicting opinions before the leader of the organisation continued. “What about the Kyuubi container? Has he shown any development?”
“His skills have increased largely especially his ninjutsu capabilities and from his battle with the summoned Yondaime I learnt that he is now able withstand six tails of the Kyuubi’s power however he can’t control himself whilst in the transformed state.”
The leader contemplated the new information, “Well, we shall delay capturing him for now. There are three months remaining until the chosen day. That is the time we have remaining to capture the other Bijuu’s. Deidara and Tobi, you are to capture the Rokubi. Zetsu your task is still the same, retrieve the container of the Schichibi.” The leader then looked towards the only other member of Akatsuki who had yet to speak. She stood with her arms folded across her chest and her face hidden in the shadows. “Have you located the container of the Hachibi yet?”
The mysterious woman simply shook her head before she spoke, “He has escaped me once again. I will be sure to capture him within the designated time.”
The leader nodded his head before Tobi asked him a question, “So now that Itachi and Kisame are dead, who’s going to capture the Kyuubi vessel?”
“After you have accomplished your designated task you are to travel to the fire country to capture him. With the upcoming chuunin exams that are to be held in Konoha, it will be easy to infiltrate the village.”
Deidara and Tobi nodded in understanding before the mysterious figure finished, “And just in case, I will accompany you. After all…it has been a long time since I’ve seen my native land.”
Naruto slowly opened his eyes as the blurred details of the landscape slowly began to focus. He found himself lying under the shade of a tree.
“So you’re finally awake? I was beginning to wonder how long it would take.”
Naruto jumped a bit at the voice as he was not expecting anyone else to be here. He looked to his side finding the infamous super pervert Jiraiya sitting cross legged on the grass. “Ero-Sennin? What are you doing here and how long was I out cold?”
“You’ve been out for two hours. So this is the training method Kakashi thought up for you I presume.”
“Yeah.” His response was simple and short.
“Quite ingenious, it is something to expect from someone of his intelligence.” Jiraiya paused for a moment, “So…why are you training so hard?”
“I need to become stronger.”
“You are already quite strong. From what Kakashi has told me and from what I have seen you are already at jounin level and your ninjutsu surpasses even Kakashi’s.”
“I’m still not strong enough to be able to defeat them.”
Jiraiya face had a perplexed expression before he realised who he was talking about, “I see, the promise you made yesterday. You are planning on defeating Akatsuki.” The frog hermit ignored the surprised Naruto and continued, “In that case you have a long way to go.”
Naruto quickly spoke, “You saw me while I was at the old man’s grave.” His face turned solemn, “Why are you spying on me?”
Jiraiya placed a hand on his shoulder, “Hey, I’m just worried.” He tightened his grip, “I want to help you.”
The legendary Sannin removed his hand to his side before leaning back against the bark of the tree, “You know Naruto. Maybe you should let the old hag examine you; she might be able to do something.”
“No.” Naruto looked down as he was reminded of is impending death; “No operation or medicine can fix the damage that has been done. The Kyuubi is constantly using his chakra to stop me from falling apart inside. It’ll only be so long before it happens.”
The remaining threads of hope in Jiraiya were broken as he heard this, “You haven’t told her?”
“She’s already suffered because she felt helpless about her brother and Dan. I don’t want her to feel pain again.”
“Naruto, she’ll be hurt deeply by your death. She has a right to know beforehand.”
The blonde genin looked towards his mentor, “Promise me you won’t tell her.”
Jiraiya looked taken aback at the statement of his student before he steeled his resolve, “Fine, I promise. But I trust in you to do the right thing.”
A few minutes of silence passed between the two as the wind blew past them. Jiraiya moved his hand to his pouch which promptly earned the attention of his protégé. He pulled his hand out from his pouch revealing a long yellow scroll with an elegant red ribbon tied around its centre.
“What’s with the scroll?” Naruto asked curiously.
Jiraiya sighed before handing the scroll over to Naruto, “You are finally ready.”
“I don’t understand.” The blonde eyed the scroll in his hands.
“Before the chuunin exams 3 years ago, the old man gave me that scroll. I was informed to give it to you when I believed you were ready to learn what is inside. I’m guessing the old man knew that he didn’t have long left.”
Naruto felt a great happiness fill within him as he thought about the old man, “That was given to the old man by the Yondaime himself.” The blonde turned his head towards his mentor as soon as he said that.
“His dying wish was for you to receive that scroll when you would be responsible enough to learn the technique inside.”
The jinchuuriki asked his sensei a simple question, “Why me?”
“The Yondaime didn’t have any family. He had no known relatives. He had nothing to leave behind except for the technique which led to him being recognised as the Yellow Flash. When he chose you to be the container he knew that he was placing a great burden upon you but in his heart he truly felt that you would be accepted by the people. This scroll was left behind to help you protect this village. He was the only one who knew this technique and left a detailed scroll on how he created it and how to use it. That is what you are holding in your hands right now.”
Naruto looked at the graceful scroll in his possession in awe. “The Yondaime was a great man who gave his life to protect this village. What helped him become one of the best will now help you achieve your final ambition.”
Naruto felt himself overjoyed that the legendary shinobi had chosen him to be the receiver of his famous technique. The technique which had helped Konoha acquire the advantage in the Third Great Ninja War.
Jiraiya stood up slowly before brushing the dirt off his pants. He looked at Naruto with pride, “Every generation a special shinobi is born. Naruto, you are the true inheritor of the will of fire and his legacy.”

Chapter 4: Forbidden Training
Naruto untied the ribbon around the scroll before gradually opening it and looking at the detailed inscriptions inside. He stared at the writing with wonder before looking back at his mentor with a silent ‘thank you.’
Jiraiya couldn’t help but feel better at the young blonde’s resolve. Even though he was about to lose everything he was prepared to do anything for his village. “That technique takes a great toll on the body. In order for you to be able to successfully accomplish it you need to physically improve.”
The vessel of the Kyuubi listened attentively before his sensei continued. “As I’m sure you have realised, Kakashi’s method of training helps you gain knowledge and develop your understanding of ninjutsu really quickly. It even helps with chakra control however it doesn’t physically improve your body. That is why your speed and strength are still lacking.”
“Yeah…I know.” The blonde looked gloomy as he said this knowing that he needed to improve his physical condition in order to stand up against members of Akatsuki. “Even though, I’m better than Kakashi-sensei in ninjutsu he can still beat me in an all out fight when I’m not using Kyuubi’s chakra.”
“That is where I will help you.” Naruto felt relief and gratitude towards his sensei. “I have a training method that will increase your physical attributes at an exponential rate.”
Naruto looked tremendously happy, “All right! Now you’re talking Ero-Sennin. I knew you’d have something up your sleeve.” Naruto stopped and began stroking his chin contemplating something before he spoke up again, “Did you just come out with it recently?”
The white haired Sannin replied in a serious manner, “Actually I’ve known about it for a long time.”
The blonde looked shocked at the revelation before he had a small outburst, “NANI? Why didn’t you teach it to me when we were on our training trip?”
Jiraiya laughed at the blonde gennin, “Because...it’s a forbidden method.”
Sakura walked towards her team’s normal meeting place. Ever since Sasuke had returned everything had to a great extent returned to normal. She felt happy knowing that in the end Naruto had kept his promise and Sasuke himself wasn’t as distant as he was before he left. Although he still avoided starting conversations he wouldn’t grunt and turn away whenever he was asked his opinion on matters.
Team 7 was reunited and it felt just like the old times when they were together. She saw the bridge up ahead and was surprised to see that only the Uchiha was there and Naruto was nowhere to be seen. This was peculiar as he would normally be the first one there. She hadn’t seen the blonde genin a lot in recent times and had got concerned when he didn’t appear at the celebration of Orichamaru’s death. She felt relieved when she had talked to Ino the day before having been informed by her friend that the hyperactive ninja was just recovering from his gruelling battle.
She walked onto the bridge over the flowing stream, “Ohayo, Sakuke-kun.”
The young Uchiha was leaning onto the railing of the bridge looking into the water below as the fish jumped. He looked towards the pink haired medic upon her greeting and gave her a nod of acknowledgment.
“I see Naruto hasn’t arrived yet.” Tsunade’s student decided to walk over to the railing near Sasuke and leaned against it.
“No, he hasn’t.” The Uchiha expressed his surplus retort. He carried on staring into the water which was sparkling due to the sunlight bouncing off its surface and continued, “I haven’t seen much of him lately.” The black haired young man was deep in thought about his companion’s strange behaviour as of late.
“Neither have I.” She frowned when saying this but quickly had a smile plastered across her face, “I wouldn’t worry about it. He was at the Yamanka’s flower shop yesterday. He told Ino that he was just tired from the battle 2 weeks ago.”
Sasuke straightened up and folded his arms across his chest, “He was at a flower shop? Did Ino happen to say why he was there?” his question was nonchalant.
Sakura looked at him with a confused expression, “To buy flowers most likely. Why does it matter that he decided to buy flowers?”
The calm young man looked at her, “The question is not whether he bought the flowers but for whom?”
The pink haired girl was thinking enquiringly about her team mates words. A series of situations began to run through her mind before she stopped at a particular one. Could he have found a special girl? Suddenly the young kunoichi felt her insides twinge with a bizarre feeling towards Naruto. She couldn’t understand what she was feeling towards the blonde but she felt angry nonetheless. ‘Shannaro, Naruto, I’ll freaking kill you.’
The air was filled with a familiar ‘poof’ and the entrance of their perverted sensei. He gave them a relaxed wave followed by his usual greeting, “Yo.” He looked in the direction of his two students and found the stoic Uchiha glaring at him whilst the medic of his team spoke in an icy tone, “You’re late Kakashi-sensei.”
“Heh heh, you see I was excited at the fact that we were to have our first team meeting in such a long time, I overslept!” Sakura looked at the jounin confused as to what exactly to make of the excuse. Whereas Sasuke just raised his left eyebrow slightly, showing the ex-Anbu that he was sceptical also.
The jounin simply cleared his throat, “Since Sasuke’s not allowed to leave the village, for the time being our missions as a team are constricted to being within Konoha’s boundaries. Hence our first mission as a team is to fill in at the academy.” He looked at them with his trademark lazy eye.
Sakura swiftly spoke, “Naruto, that baka, isn’t here yet.” She looked towards the entrance way to the bridge half expecting him to pop up at any minute.
The lazy jounin answered the young kunoichi as realisation dawned on his face, “Oh, the other reason why I was late was because I was summoned to the Hokage’s office this morning being informed that Naruto wouldn’t be partaking in missions until later as he is still recovering from exhaustion.”
Sasuke smirked whilst inside he was perplexed since he knew that Naruto would take missions even if he was beaten half to death especially one as simple as this. Sakura purely spoke her thoughts, “That seems strange.”
Kakashi dismissed his students, “Don’t worry about it, I’m sure he’ll be better in no time.” ‘I hope’ he added as an afterthought to himself. “Come on, we have a mission to complete.” With that said the three ninjas made their way to the academy.
“Forbidden?” The blonde’s voice hinted at his confusion and eagerness, “Why is it forbidden?”
Jiraiya merely continued in a professional manner of speaking, “This form of training is better than any performance enhancing drugs or method which would boost your physical capabilities in a short period of time. This combined with the method that Kakashi has taught you will propel you to a level which I would struggle against. It is a combined creation of mine and the Yondaime’s. He was the only one who has ever used this form of training.”
Naruto had numerous questions that needed answering, “Yeah, but if it can help a ninja become strong so fast why would it be forbidden?”
“This training method is good for a shinobi in the short term. The long term effects are devastating to say the least. It puts a great strain on your body thus in the long run your body would become damaged to the point where you would no longer be able to remain a shinobi. Because of this the Yondaime and I decided it would be best not to use this particular method considering the fact sacrificing a person’s body for a short term spree of power is not clever.”
“Wait, you said the Yondaime used this method. Wasn’t he affected by it?” The vessel was impatient for an answer.
“Yes I did. He only used it for a few days. When he stopped he was bed ridden for 2 days. However his strength and speed increased by a large amount that would not be possible if he was training normally. He wasn’t affected by it because he stopped before overusing it. We decided after, that putting a continuous strain like that on your body would damage your muscles in the long term.”
The blonde who was now sitting cross legged quickly absorbed the information. “I understand. You’re teaching me because since I don’t have long left as it is, the negative points of the method don’t apply to me.”
The frog hermit gave his student a heart warming smile, “Precisely! It will help you gain the power you need.”
“So what is it?” By this time his blue eyes showed the willingness and hunger he was feeling inside as he waited to hear his mentor’s words.
“It is a seal that alters the effect of gravity on your body.” The older man kept his eyes pointing away from the younger shinobi as he explained.
“Wait, Ero-Sennin. Isn’t that the same as using Chakra weights?”
Jiraiya started laughing at his student’s lack of understanding, “There is a big difference gaki. When you use chakra weights they don’t affect your body equally. If you place weights on your arms and legs, the muscles in those parts of your body will be a lot stronger than the ones in your chest, neck, stomach and the other parts that didn’t carry any weights. As you should know the force that gravity exerts on our bodies is balanced. There is not too much of it so it isn’t hard to move about and there isn’t too less of it so that we float.”
Naruto nodded his head absorbing all the information like the proverbial sponge while the Icha Icha author continued, “The seal I will place on you can only be done by someone who is a master of seals. It will tip the balance of the forces so gravity is dominating largely. It will affect every single muscle in your body and you will feel like the ground is pulling you in. There is no respite from this method. Chakra weights only affect you when you move; this will effect you when you attempt to sit down, when you go to sleep. You will always feel the constant effect of being pulled in. Your muscles will never rest whilst you have the seal activated. It takes a great deal of will power to be able to sustain this form of training…but I believe in you to be able to do it.”
Naruto knew that this would be the single hardest form of training he would ever experience however he had to partake in it to become strong enough to finish off the Akatsuki. “I understand, I’m ready whenever you are.”
Jiraiya had a smile on his face as he nodded, “Before I place the seal I’ll teach you how to deactivate it since it’ll be a lot harder for you to listen when I’ve put it on.”
“Deactivate? I thought I would keep it on continuously.”
Jiraiya looked at his student as if he was stupid, “Baka! Haven’t you been listening? Your muscles will never get the chance to rest whilst the seal is activated. It is important for you to deactivate the seal for a full 24 hours once a week so you can rest up and get used to your body’s improvements.”
Naruto sheepishly scratched the back of his head, “Gomen, no need to get worked up.”
“When you have to deactivate the seal channel some chakra into your hand before placing it over where your heart is and say Juushin Fuuin Kai.”
Jiraiya told Naruto to take off his jacket and shirt as he gave him his final instruction, “As soon as I place the seal be ready to fight with everything you’ve got. If you’re not careful this method could kill you. Be aware at all times.”
Naruto got ready placing himself directly in front of Jiraiya before a glow began to appear on the Sannins hand, “Juushin Tonkyou Fuuin!” The legendary ninja drove his hand into the blonde’s chest above where his heart was.
Naruto found himself flying backwards from the force of the technique used on him and landed on his back. He turned onto his hands and knees before remarking, “That wasn’t so b…” He couldn’t finish his sentence as there was a small flash on his left pectoral before an intricate set of patterns appeared and he felt himself be pulled in to the ground. He collapsed under the pressure falling face first into the ground with heavy impact.
“Naruto!” Jiraiya cried out in concern.
Nara Shikamaru was on the porch of his house playing a game of shougi with his sensei. The lazy chuunin kept a laid back expression on his face before making his move. He liked to relax and was lazy by nature however after the mission where he fought against Hidan he savoured the moments where he would play shougi regardless of whether they weren’t much of a challenge.
“You know sensei. I still don’t understand what you meant.”
Sarutobi Asuma took another drag of his cigarette before he contemplated on making his move. “I thought you would’ve figured it out by now.” He looked at the board intently whilst trying to make a suitable move that his student wouldn’t easily counter. He had never beaten the young genius in a game of shougi however he would sometimes put on a rare performance resulting in a close game.
“If the king is taken it means checkmate. The game is over, however if the Hokage isn’t the king that we should all protect, then what is?”
Asuma blew out the smoke from his mouth before re-entering his cigarette. He made his move as he answered the first chuunin of the rookie 9. “In what light do you see this village? What does it stand for? What is so important that it can’t be replaced? After you can answer those questions for yourself you will understand.”
Shikamaru began analysing the questions he would need to answer in order to understand fully the concept that his sensei was trying to drive into his head. They continued playing shougi whilst Shikamaru tried to solve what in his mind was the hardest problem he had ever come across.
Jiraiya moved forward but stopped when he saw Naruto struggle against the force being applied on him.
The blonde tried his hardest but felt as if all his muscles would be ripped from his body. He was feeling pain all over his body as he slowly moved his hands into a press up position to try and hoist himself back onto his feet.
The white haired ninja stepped around Naruto so he was standing a few feet away from his head. He bent down on his knees before addressing his apprentice who was sprawled out on the ground, “Don’t become impatient Naruto. Take your time to understand how to work around the seal. Even the Yondaime couldn’t get to his feet until a good 7 or 8 hours had passed.”
The blonde moved slowly, inches of his body were complying with his commands. He felt as if half the bones in his face had been broken. His fall into the ground at such a fast rate had left a small crater around his body. He knew that this would take everything he had and would be tremendously hard. Sweat drifted from all parts of his body as the minutes dragged on by, while he was feeling as he was fighting for his life. He found himself experiencing a variety of emotions shifting from helplessness to anger and then to defeat. No, he couldn’t give up as the very path he had walked his whole life prevented him to do so. He wouldn’t go against his nindo.
“Ugh…” Through all of his strength he moved his legs upwards to try and put his knees below him. He managed to get his right knee under himself while his left leg was still behind him.
Jiraiya looked on at his student with awe and admiration at his determination. You’ve suffered so much Naruto. His eyes drifted to Naruto’s face which had now become visible as the blood slowly dripped from various cuts on his visage. The blonde’s nose looked as if it had been crushed. But you’ve never given up even after life throws so many obstacles in your way. After struggling for a few more minutes the blond managed to get both his knees underneath himself as he tried to lift one of his knees so that his foot would be flat on the ground.
“Kuso…” The genin had another burst of energy and he threw all of it into moving his foot onto the ground in a flat position before attempting to stand.
The legendary Sannin looked on proudly at the containers progress. He had in 3 quarters of an hour got in to a position to nearly stand up, a feat which had taken the Yondaime himself 3 hours to accomplish. No matter what the villagers have said, slowly they are all beginning to realise. I believe in you.
“I…” Jiraiya looked at his student keenly as he began to speak. “…made a promise…” The blonde was now trying his hardest to get his legs straight before he could straighten out his back and stand. “…to Ojiisan.” He managed to get both his legs under him but was now fighting to straighten out his back. “I WON’T GO BACK ON MY WORDS! THAT’S MY WAY OF THE NINJA!”
The perverted hermit had a large smile on his face as he felt the feeling of joy run through him. Show them all Naruto...
The blonde screamed out of frustration and large effort. “I WON’T BREAK MY FINAL PROMISE!” With all his remaining energy and determination, Naruto sprang up straightening his back and finally stood upright; his upper body glistened with the sweat that had left trails all over his body. The articles of clothing that remained had become drenched with sweat as he panted heavily from all his exhaustion.

Chapter 5: Faith Of The Heart
Naruto strode through the streets of Konoha as the people rushed around completing their daily tasks. He had after a few hours gotten used enough to the seal placed on him by Jiraiya that he was capable of walking without feeling too much of a strain on his body. He still couldn’t run, as at his first attempt he ended up slamming his foot into the ground too hard and injured his knee for a brief period of time. The injuries he had sustained due to the rigorous training had now healed up enough so that he didn’t look as he had just been beaten half to death. The cuts had cleared and his nose was in a better condition so that it didn’t look disfigured.
Before Jiraiya had left there was another interesting development as he found that the scroll that the Yondaime had left him also held a special three pronged kunai sealed inside. The kunai looked different from the normal kunais he was used to and it was also heavier. Jiraiya had told him that the kunai was made specifically for this technique and was obviously the only one left. Due to this information Naruto had decided he would get the owner of the weapon store to duplicate at least another additional 50 kunais like the one currently in his pouch. He decided to have this done as soon as possible lest he didn’t have the time required for it later. He knew that learning the Yondaime’s prized technique would be an extremely difficult task.
He carried on walking through the streets receiving a mixture of looks from the residents of Konoha. Some looked at him with appreciation whereas others who still couldn’t understand the difference between him and his prisoner had an aura of disgust radiating off them. He opened the door to the weapons shop resounding in a high pitched chime alerting the store owner that someone had entered the store. The blonde genin looked at the store with awe as he realised that it had changed largely over the past few years. This was the first time he visited the store after his return to Konoha from his training trip. He looked to the counter to see a familiar kunoichi with a smile plastered across her face giving him a small wave before addressing him.
“Ohayo Naruto-kun, what brings you here?” Ten-Ten was looking directly at the blonde shinobi who was currently standing at the entranceway of the shop.
He walked towards her giving her a greeting while he had his usual foxy smile across his facade. “You work here?”
“Hai, when I’m not training. I’m learning craftsmanship from tou-san. He said the best way would be to work here with him and he would teach me alongside learning how to care for the shop.” She twisted a kunai in her hands whilst engaging in the conversation.
The younger shinobi of the two gave a small laugh, “That explains how you manage to get all those weapons. A normal person would go bankrupt.”
The kunoichi smiled, “So what would you like?”
Naruto put his hand into his pouch withdrawing the three pronged kunai and put it onto the counter, “I need another 50 kunai like this one.”
Ten-Ten picked up the kunai and began to survey it turning it around in her hand checking its weight and balance. “I don’t think we have any other kunai like this.”
“You don’t.” Ten-Ten looked a little shocked at his statement. “I need you to make me another 50 kunai like that one.”
Ten-Ten gave him a nod, “I understand.” She retreated to the back of the store leaving Naruto to observe his surroundings. The blonde looked at the various ornaments littered around the store. There were an assortment of shinobi tools ranging from such items like food pills and shuriken to exploding tags and various types of bombs which differed from gas to light. However two weapons in particular caught his eye. They were twin blades of katanas, no doubt to be used in conjunction with other. The jinchuuriki started to contemplate on his Kaze No Yaiba jutsu and how he could possibly modify it. He never realised Ten-Ten walk in from the rear of the shop with an older man who was now holding the kunai that Naruto attained from Yondaime’s scroll.
The older man looked at the blonde before giving a small chuckle alerting the said shinobi of his presence, “Long time no see Naruto, something caught your eye.”
Naruto looked at the old man with smile of his own, “Not really.” He walked towards the counter again before he was right in front of it. “So will you be able to make more?”
The old man laughed before his expression turned into a more serious one, “Of course. This is not the first time that I have been asked to duplicate such a kunai. There used to be a shinobi that came here who would ask for the same thing.” He gave Naruto a knowing look all the while his daughter looked on trying to understand what the two were talking about.
“How long will it take? I need them done as soon as possible. It’s important”
“Do you think you will be able to afford this, Naruto?” The craftsman’s question was simple and resulted in Naruto placing 25,000 yen on the table in front of the older man’s eyes.
The older man gave him a smile before handing him 5,000 yen back, “I’ll give you a discount since it’ll be my personal honour to make a kunai like this again. If you are going to use this kunai for what I’m assuming then I will have to craft them personally. It is important that the kunais have no faults. Come back in two weeks and I’ll have them ready for you.”
Naruto thanked him before heading out of the shop leaving a happy craftsman and a curious young kunoichi. Ten-Ten looked at her father eager to receive an answer from him, “Why is that kunai so important?”
The old man looked at his daughter, “The only other man to ask me to make this kunai was the Yondaime himself.” He walked to the back of his shop leaving his stunned daughter behind.
Ten-Ten was shocked beyond comprehension and looked towards the door where Naruto had left moments before and a small smile graced her face.
Sakura had been a chuunin for some time now and even though she had more administrative duties such as sorting the Godaime’s paperwork and helping in handing out assignments she had never taught a class of eager wannabe ninjas. She stood at the centre of a loud class wherein the students shouted and laughed causing an absurd amount of noise. She never realised teaching was this hard and now understood why her fellow chuunin companion Shikamaru would always complain about it being ‘troublesome.’ She tried to collect the building anger inside her however she was failing resulting in her having a large outburst, “SHANNARO! SHUT THE HELL UP!”
The class of children no older than 10 looked at one of their substitute instructors with shock and fear and quieted down instantly. One of the young boys ran behind Kakashi trying to find protection in the form of the masked man who had stayed laidback throughout the morning engaged in reading the yet to be released Icha Icha title that he had received from Naruto as a present. He averted his lazy eye from his book to look at the pink haired girl who was seething with anger, “Sakura, maybe you should calm down. The kids are terrified.”
The medic-nin looked at Kakashi trying her utmost to calm her currently volatile state, “You know I’m not the only one who’s supposed to be teaching these kids. You two are meant to help out as well.”
Sasuke who was leaning back against a wall a few feet across from Kakashi with his arms folded across his chest opened his previously shut eyes before addressing his fellow team mate, “It was your idea to leave the more practical part of teaching to Kakashi-sensei and me. You said you would be able to handle the rest.”
Sasuke stared at the pink haired kunoichi not buckling under the death glare he was receiving from her, “I know what I said but that doesn’t mean you can’t help out even a little.”
Sasuke had a smirk across his face whilst Sakura attempted to speak again she was interrupted by Kakashi, “He’s right Sakura. Like we agreed, you handle explaining about chakra whilst I and Sasuke will teach them about shurikens and the use of exploding tags.”
Sakura gave up on convincing her fellow shinobis and turned back to the students before Kakashi returned to reading his orange book giving small perverted giggles every now and again. Sasuke remained against his wall as stoic as ever before a small smile crept across his face. ‘You would’ve enjoyed seeing Sakura like this Naruto…what exactly are you doing dobe?’
Sakura taught the children the basics of chakra use whilst they listened not daring to speak out of line or become inattentive as they feared another outburst from the beautiful yet deadly medic. An hour passed by before Sakura had completed her part in teaching and turned to Sasuke as it was his turn to address them in the use of shuriken before Kakashi would explain about the uses of exploding tag. The kunoichi sat down before the black haired Uchiha made his way to the front of the class. He looked at the class who had erupted into bouts of conversation yet again before looking back towards his kunoichi team mate who had an evil glint in her eyes.
Sasuke reached into his pouch withdrawing several shuriken before throwing them at the student’s desks. They landed on several desks instantly reducing the noise of the class to silence. Sakura jaw was hitting the ground before looking towards her perverted sensei expecting him to reprimand the Uchiha, “He can’t do that. The children must be…”
She never had the chance to finish her sentence as a young girl quickly spoke, “Wow! That was so cool!” Sakura had to stop herself from falling over as Sasuke had a victorious smirk spread across his face.
Sakura couldn’t believe what had just transpired in front of her leaving her even more confused on how to handle teaching. ‘Shannaro! What the hell?’
The container of the Kyuubi walked towards the Hokage tower to speak with the Godaime as she had requested of him by sending a messenger bird in the earlier hours of the morning. He stopped upon seeing the grandson of the passed Sandaime staring up at the Hokage monument. He knew the younger ninja was staring at the face of the Sandaime in particular. He walked up beside the younger boy and placed a hand on his shoulder.
Konohamaru looked startled at first before seeing who it was. Naruto spoke first, “You miss him a lot, don’t you?” The blonde shinobi stared at the monument alongside his younger companion.
Konohamaru sighed before adorning a more serious expression, “A ninja must not show any emotions.”
Naruto listened to the young genin whom he had come to consider as a younger brother, “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with showing emotions. I miss him too.”
“We’re supposed to be tools that don’t have any feelings. Ebisu-sensei says that whoever breaks the rules in the shinobi world is trash.” Naruto looked at the smaller boy before addressing him.
“We’re not just tools Konohamaru. We have feelings, happiness, and sadness. That is what makes us human. A person must be able to realise the difference between right and wrong. One who breaks the rules in the shinobi world is trash but…whoever abandons their friends is worse then trash. The bonds we have with our precious people are what give us true strength. Protect and cherish such bonds at whatever the cost.”
The Sarutobi looked at the blonde absorbing all the wisdom he received from him. Konohamaru held a high respect for Naruto as he had been the first one to acknowledge him for who he was. The older shinobi had always helped him whenever he had needed it. A genuine smile spread across his face, “Arigatou, Naruto-niichan. I need to train hard and prove myself worthy of entering the chuunin exams in two months. I want the old man to be proud of me.”
“I’m sure he would be proud of you. You’re going to be a great ninja, Konohamaru.”
“…I just don’t want to fail him. I want to prove that I’m worthy of being his legacy.” The worry and gloom was evident in his voice.
“The strongest weapon a shinobi has is the will to believe in himself. You would be surprised what one can accomplish when he wills himself to.” Konohamaru looked at the blonde, “Have faith in yourself and try your hardest.” He gave his trademark foxy smile to his smaller friend before ruffling his hair and heading towards the Hokage tower. A warm feeling swept through the younger boy making him happy. ‘Arigatou niichan.’
Deidara and Tobi were currently heading west towards the country of Lightning. The two Akatsuki members jumped through the river dividing the border whilst remaining alert of their surroundings. They knew that due to their recent exploits in capturing jinchuurikis and bijuus as well as Deidara’s attack on Sunagakure resulted in the other countries having higher security than usual.
Deidara, already in a foul mood from Tobi’s constant questions, was ready to unleash hell on his next opponent. He ran as fast as he could whilst desperately trying to ignore his companions constant muttering.
“Hey, Sempai, I’ve got a serious question for you?” The orange mask wearing criminal asked his blonde partner with a hint of curiosity in his voice.
Deidara scoffed before replying, “You said that 10 minutes ago before asking me whether orange was the best colour for your mask.” Deidara collected his building anger before running along the edge of the river and jumping into the trees.
“No, this time it’s concerning the meeting we had a while ago.” Deidara’s ears perked to the words of Tobi as his curiosity was peaked, “I’ve been thinking about it for a while now but I can’t seem to figure it out.”
Deidara looked back at Tobi giving him a nod as a go ahead to explain further. Tobi hastened his pace so that he was running alongside his partner, “Zetsu-sempai bought back the rings of Itachi, Kisame, Hidan and Orichamaru. However he also gave an analysis on the Kyuubi brat’s skills. This means that he was there when the others were fighting but he didn’t involve himself in the fight. If he did then the others most likely wouldn’t have died and they would’ve succeeded in the jinchuuriki’s capture. I know Zetsu-sempai doesn’t trust anyone except himself but it seems out of character for him not to assist fellow members when we’re working towards a common goal.”
Deidara instantly stopped his movement contemplating this new piece of information. He didn’t understand how he managed to overlook such details. “You’re right yeah.”
Tobi became surprised at his blonde companion’s admittance. He would usually expect to get reprimanded in some form. Deidara continued with a pensive expression on his face, “There’s definitely something wrong yeah…” He paused for a few minutes, “We should remain cautious of the others. The leaf shinobi being in Orichamaru’s lair is something we wouldn’t normally overlook. We usually make sure that our plans go ahead without many problems. It almost seems that Itachi, Kisame and Hidan were sent to their death yeah.”
Tobi couldn’t believe what was transcending before his eyes. He gave his partner a nod before speaking, “One last question sempai.” Deidara looked back towards the newest member of Akatsuki.
“You really think that green wouldn’t look better on the mask?” A swift scream echoed throughout the forest.
Naruto opened the door between him and the Hokage’s office. He released a heavy sigh before walking in. He hadn’t seen the woman he had come to consider as a mother for a few days now. The words of his pervert sensei were still heavy on his mind. The blonde knew that he should tell the older woman about his condition but found it hard to break the news to her.
He looked at the Godaime who seemed to be observing him closely with keen eyes. The young genin gave her a large smile, “Tsunade-baachan, what did you call me for?”
The Hokage cleared her throat flushing away any anger and controlled the twitch in her right eye at being called an old lady. Even though Naruto used the name in all of their encounters, she still couldn’t get accustomed to the fact. “I was going to personally ask you about your health and whether you were ready to take missions with your team again.”
Naruto grew nervous as he began to think that she may know. He put on a nonchalant act, “Why do you ask that?”
Tsunade leaned back in her chair, “Jiraiya told me you were still feeling the effects from your fight with the summoned Yondaime.”
Naruto tried to determine whether he should tell her the truth but opted to lie instead, “Yeah, I’m feeling a lot better. Although I must ask that I am put off any further missions for the next few weeks.” He knew that he needed to dedicate as much time as he could towards his training.
The Hokage raised one of her eyebrows at the younger boy’s request. She knew that it was greatly out of character for the genin to refuse missions let alone ask personally to be put off them or a while. “Why may I ask do you want that?”
Naruto began scratching the back of his head trying to quickly come up with a suitable excuse, “Heh heh, I just wanted to take a break from the work. A vacation would do me good.”
Tsunade looked at the boy from head to toe, “Is that so? Do you care to explain how it seems that you’ve been training even though you want a break from work?”
“Uh…A shinobi must always remain fit.” He eagerly waited to see whether his reply had worked.
Tsunade gave him a nod confirming his request. The young blond made his way to the exit, “Naruto…” The jinchuuriki stopped at hearing his name called. The older woman’s tone was soft like that of a caring mother. “…Would you lie to me?”
Naruto’s hand unconsciously moved towards the necklace that he had received from the Godaime clutching it between his hands. He felt the guilt build within him knowing that what he was doing was wrong, “…I’m sorry, I already have.”
He turned to face her, his eyes showed the sorrow contained within them. The Hokage was standing also, “I didn’t want to upset you.”
Tsunade began to think about the various meanings that his words could’ve held but she knew what the blonde was talking about in particular. She felt hurt inside, “You lied about your health to me didn’t you? You’re far from fine.” She looked at the boy who was now facing the floor.
“How bad is it?” She waited for an answer from the demon container, “Naruto…look at me…please, how bad?”
The blonde looked at her showing the few tears flowing down his face, “I’m so sorry Tsunade-baachan.”
The meaning behind his words hit her like a ton of bricks. She grabbed her chest feeling her heart aching like it had never done before. The deaths of her younger brother and lover had a profound impact on her. Her heart had had become cold and she held undying hatred towards her home village. However an encounter with the hyperactive blonde had changed her. He had melted the ice surrounding her heart and made her accept the embrace of living for the future again. The tears flowed down her face as she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
‘Until I become Hokage…I will not die.’
She remembered his words when he had put his life at stake to protect her from harm. She tried her hardest from keeping her voice from breaking, “No…tell me this is a joke…what about your dream?”
Naruto looked at the older woman who was now crying openly. This was exactly what he wanted to avoid doing to her. He knew that she was hurting deeply inside and it pained him to see her like this. “Some dreams can’t be made to come true.”
He walked towards the woman whom he considered a mother, “Please don’t cry.”
The older woman quickly pulled him into an embrace now crying harder soaking his shirt. He put his arms around her returning the hug, “I have accepted my fate but I’m not going to wallow in my misery. This was something bound to happen at one time or another.”
Tsunade pulled back a little controlling herself, “But your future?”
“It’s alright, I’m happy to be here with my friends.” He paused before continuing, “Tsunade-baachan, I want you to stay as you are. The people of this village need a strong leader like you. You give them hope. No matter what I do in the future, promise me you won’t lose faith.”
The Godaime began to think about what the blonde may be planning but she had trust in him, “I believe you will do the right thing and I promise you I’ll protect this village with my life.” The two gave each other a heart warming smile before the older woman gave him a kiss on his forehead. He remembered Iruka’s words allowing one last teardrop to fall from his cerulean eyes.

Chapter 6: Elemental Mastery
Sakura stepped out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her body. The window to her room was open letting the wind blow into her room giving a cool breeze. She walked towards her wardrobe before adorning clothes suitable for sleeping in. She sat in front of her mirror before fixing up her hair.
It had been a week since the newly reunited Team 7 had begun to perform their missions. Most of the missions assigned to them included administrative duties and helping the Godaime with her paperwork. The Hokage had seemed extremely different lately as it was quite apparent to the pink kunoichi that she had some big issues dwelling on her mind, not that Sakura knew what they were. She was intrigued as to what could have resulted in the sudden change in behaviour for her mentor.
Team 7 itself didn’t feel as it should have due to the notable absence of a certain hyperactive blonde. Neither of the members of the team had seen Naruto for over a week now. His usual liveliness and merriment was being missed heavily by Sakura as she realised how dull and boring it could become at times. Although she and Sasuke had tried to locate him on several occasions they failed terribly. They had checked in on his apartment however he was never in whenever they went. The only comfort she felt was from knowing that he was still regularly visiting the ramen stand for his monstrous meal devouring and from being told by the owner that he was happy and cheerful as always. The Godaime herself had reassured her that everything was fine but Sakura found herself disbelieving of her words.
She had finished tying her hair with a ribbon and looked at the recent team picture that they had taken after rescuing Sasuke and defeating Orichamaru. She picked it up and observed it closely. Naruto was standing in the middle with a large smile plastered across his face with one of his hands in the victory sign while his other was wrapped around Sasuke’s neck strangling him a little much to the Uchiha’s chagrin. Sakura herself was looking at the two laughing while Kakashi had stood behind his team; the only thing notifying them of his smile was the form his eye had taken. She had enjoyed that day immensely as it had been the first day that they had all spent together after such a long time. A smile spread across her pretty face as she felt the warmth inside her spread.
On the other hand she had also noticed that Naruto seemed to grow more distant from his team not much later after that day. The blonde became increasingly tenser and seemed to be mulling over things. The return of her black-haired team and reunion of their team was something she had wished for over 2 years. However her love for the Uchiha had largely diminished over the years and she found that she wasn’t as attracted to the stoic teen like she used to be. She had become more open around him and acted much like her usual self instead of trying to please him with each of her minor actions.
She lied down into the warm confines of her blanket whilst staring at the ceiling. So much had happened to their team that it was amazing that they had survived. Sasuke had returned which brought her tremendous happiness however she was still worried about her blonde team mate. The organisation of Akatsuki was still on the prowl even though they had lost three members. She had tried her hardest to find out the objective behind the Akatsuki capturing all the Bijuus but she couldn’t find a grain of information that could help her. The organisation itself was shrouded in mystery as the only known information about them was that they consisted of a group of S-class missing-nin who were capturing the tailed beasts.
The power of the tailed demons was something that had scared her immensely as she had witnessed Naruto unleashing some of the terrifying chakra of the Kyuubi which was known to be the strongest bijuu. She couldn’t forget the sight she had witnessed when Naruto’s desperation had him unleash enough chakra that he transformed into a 6 tailed miniature form of the kitsune. The spectacle was something that nobody present would forget as the blonde’s appearance changed radically. However Sakura’s fear was largely overwhelmed by the concern and worry she had for her blonde friend. She wanted more than anything to somehow stop him and help him but she couldn’t.
After his battle had concluded she felt as if her heart was being ripped out from her chest. Never before had she seen the genin in such a physically devastated form. His body was significantly disfigured as he was covered in pools of his own blood. Sakura began crying, praying for the best as her mentor worked as hard as humanly possible to repair the damaged blonde. Sakura herself had attempted to help however she was prevented by Jiraiya being told that she would die of chakra depletion as she only had a small amount remaining. She had seen the hesitance in the sannin’s eyes along with the trepidation and dread.
The pink haired girl found that her cheeks had become wet from droplets of tears from reliving the experience again. The revelation that Naruto was the container of the Kyuubi had showered him in a new light to the kunoichi. She felt great admiration for the shinobi as she realised how painful and lonely his existence must have been. Yet he had endured it and persevered never giving up hope and always attempting to cheer others up. She couldn’t help but feel that she didn’t know the real Naruto. Had it all been a façade? What was behind the mask? She finally realised that she wanted to find out and help him in any way possible before drifting to a peaceful slumber.
Jiraiya was currently at Konoha’s bathhouse mounted in a tree peaking and admiring the voluptuous curves of the women currently bathing whilst hidden under the shadows. He had a small amount of drool emanating from the corners of his mouth whilst he gave small giggles every now and again. Due to his intense concentration pertaining to his ‘research’ he failed to recognise the presence of a blonde woman looking at him indifferently from the ground below.
“How did I know that I would find your perverted ass here?” The rhetorical question caught the frog hermit’s attention as he looked towards the person interrupting his peaking session.
He felt fear rush through the core of his being as he realised that the Godaime was standing a few feet from the base of the tree he was currently occupying. He had received a few beatings from the large busted woman for his perverted sessions of peaking at the bath houses. He knew that Tsunade greatly despised perverts and wouldn’t hesitate to once again beat him into oblivion since he had been caught red handed.
He began to wave his hands in front of him, “Ah…Tsunade I can explain. You see…” The pervert was interrupted from his droning.
“I don’t care…we need to talk.” Tsunade looked directly into the eyes of her ex-team mate not blinking.
Saying Jiraiya was shocked would be an understatement as he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t feeling the woman’s wrath. He then noticed the distinct look of sadness etched deep within her eyes. “Okay.”
He jumped towards the blonde’s side before the two of them began to walk away from the bathhouse. Jiraiya decided to break the silence, “I’m guessing he has told you.”
Tsunade released a sigh, “How long has it been since you knew?”
Jiraiya had a serious expression, “The day of the celebration.” He turned to see that the Tsunade was currently staring at the ground.
“Do you know where he is?” The blonde woman was eager and curious as to the genins whereabouts.
“He’s probably at his training ground. I was going to go there myself later on but guess I’ll take you there now.”
Tsunade gave the white haired pervert a nod before they headed towards Naruto’s position.
Naruto was currently sitting under the shade of a large tree with numerous scrolls littered around his position. It had been a week since he implemented the gravity training and today was his day for relaxation. The seal was currently inactive and he found himself appreciating the rest his muscles were having.
The seal had helped tremendously as Naruto found himself faster and more agile than he had ever felt before. He was more than twice his original speed. He also realised that his muscles had become a lot more defined and he felt a lot stronger physically. The seal had done an excellent job however it had been a hellish week as his Tajuu Kage Bunshin training was also affected by the seal. He still couldn’t run at his maximum speed with the seal activated. This caused conundrums for the clones that were doing the chakra control training as they couldn’t get a running start to climb the waterfall.
However on the whole his training had gone really well. The clones even with the added handicap of the gravity seal had still managed to reach halfway up the waterfall. Naruto knew that it would only be a matter of time before he’d be capable of travelling the full length of the waterfall. However due to the seal some of the clones would be dispelled as they lost their footing and fell into the plunge pool below with resonating impacts.
The second group had completed their objective successfully as Naruto was now able to mentally communicate with the Kyuubi whilst remaining aware of what was happening around him. The Kyuubi himself wasn’t too happy with being annoyed by the blonde hence Naruto hadn’t tried to talk with the demon since the first test try.
He had refined his skills with the Kaze No Yaiba technique and knew the basics well however he would need to get someone to teach him if he wanted to understand fully how to fight with his weapons of wind and increase his current skill level in kenjutsu. He had improved the jutsu so that he was now able to wield two blades at once. He received the idea by seeing the twin swords at the weapons store. He had named the new technique Souansha Heijin.
His clones had also managed to create 47 attack formations. Naruto had looked through the list and chose 5 that he knew would be the most successful and decided to use them in future battles. Additionally he had finally mastered his elemental affinity. He fully understood how to implement the positives of the element and how to avoid wasting chakra. This had also helped him with his Yasha Kachuu technique as he could execute it better now than before. Being caught by this overwhelming technique would definitely spell the end for his enemies.
Also he was now capable of performing all the D class and C class techniques he knew with one handed seals. The speed at which he performed the seals was now extremely fast due to the seal and his constant practice. Jiraiya wasn’t joking when he said the seal affected every muscle in his body. He could carry out the seals within a second.
His genjutsu defense had increased solidly and he was now confident that he would be able to deflect all genjutsu except the high level ones. However due to the mental link he could create with the Kyuubi he realised that he could never get caught in a genjutsu since his demon inhabitant was immune to such techniques. The demon was more than capable of preventing Naruto from becoming trapped in one as long as the link was present however the question was whether the kitsune would. Although an inadvertent development Naruto was exceedingly happy.
The blonde had also mastered the Rasengan and was now capable of performing the Oodama Rasengan with one hand. This gave the blonde 2 devastating finishing manoeuvres. The exploding clone trials had also been completed with Naruto realising what he had to do to create exploding clones. He had to create imperfect clones that didn’t have their inner coils as developed as much as they should be resulting in volatile chakra which would make them explode. The Bunshin Daibakuha was a technique that Naruto knew would be of great help to him due to his large chakra level and monstrous stamina.
He had accomplished most of the tasks he had set out to complete at the beginning of the week only having to improve his kenjutsu skills, chakra control and learning to execute the rest of his remaining techniques with one hand consequently he was currently trying to brainstorm fresh ideas. He was failing and he was scanning his brain as hard as possible to come up with new objectives.
He raised his head as he sensed two chakra levels heading towards his position. The rigidness of his body instantly relaxed as he recognised who they were. In the distance two people had landed and were now heading towards him.
A large smile spread across his face before he shouted, “ERO-SENNIN…TSUNADE-BAACHAN!”
Jiraiya instantly grimaced at being called his nickname and began to mumble under his breath about the deteriorating respect that the youth showed their elders. Tsunade simply smiled at seeing the blonde act his usual self. She had only seen the blonde once since he broke the news to her. At first she was highly depressed but she felt happier when she was in the jinchuuriki’s presence as he always managed to cheer her up. They quickly arrived at the tree where Naruto was.
Tsunade walked up to the blonde and gave him a strike to his head, “How many times have I told you not to call me that?” Naruto began to whine while he smiled inwardly at seeing the older woman acting more like her customary self.
Jiraiya simply looked at Naruto still seemingly upset at being called a pervert by the young genin. He had made it clear to him that he was a super pervert on more than one occasion, “Gaki, what’s with all the scrolls?” The perverted sannin looked at the various scrolls around the blonde boy which had writing scribbled all over them.
Naruto sheepishly scratched the back of his head giving a small laugh, “Heh, I’m trying to come up with some new things to practice but I can’t.” He gave a death glare to the scrolls upon finishing his sentence. Tsunade smiled at seeing his childish behaviour.
Jiraiya began to laugh at his student. His full blown laughter didn’t die down and became even more maniacal in nature as the minutes passed by. Tsunade irritated by the frog hermit’s behaviour quickly got up and punched him across his face launching him into a nearby tree.
Naruto was the one to begin laughing as he saw his mentor soar threw the air. Jiraiya quickly recovered and made his way back to the two blondes sitting under the shade of the tree. The perverted sannin gave a steely look to his ex-team mate but instantly cowered upon receiving one back. “Ahem…before I was rudely interrupted I was going to offer you some help.”
Tsunade raised her eyebrow, “By laughing like a senile old woman?”
Jiraiya ignored her comment and pulled out five large scrolls from his pouch. Each of the scrolls was a different colour. They were coloured red, blue, brown, white and purple. Before Naruto could ask what they were Jiraiya began to speak, “Katon, Suiton, Doton, Futon and Raiton, the five elements. You have mastered your elemental affinity but it is good for a ninja to know a variety of skills as that will help increase his defensive and offensive power as well as developing his understanding of the elements. Over the next few weeks learn how to manipulate each of the separate elements and learn the techniques inscribed within the scrolls.”
Jiraiya handed the scrolls to Naruto before the blonde gave him an appreciative smile. Tsunade didn’t understand what was happening, “Wait, why are you giving him those scrolls? And why are you training so much Naruto?”
The blonde remained silent as a signal for his mentor to answer the Hokage’s question. “Before his passing…he plans on defeating the Akatsuki.”
Tsunade looked at the blonde who was eyeing the scrolls in his possession. “You don’t have to do that. Live the rest of your days in peace.”
Naruto looked at the older woman and gave her a warm smile, “I have to do this. It’s my final promise. I won’t break it.”
Tsunade couldn’t believe the words of the blonde. The younger boy’s determination hadn’t faded, if anything he had strengthened his resolve upon learning of his coming death. She couldn’t help but smile at the younger boy and gave him a hug, “I believe in you. And we’ll be right there to help you”
Jiraiya gave a touching smile and began to walk away to leave the training grounds but was stopped upon hearing his protégés words, “Where are you going, Ero-Sennin?”
Jiraiya laughed it off, “I’m going to investigate what Akatsuki is doing. I’m leaving Konoha for a while to meet up with my informant. I’ll return in two weeks.”
Naruto nodded before Jiraiya waved to them and left. The remaining two blondes began to talk. Naruto kept the Godaime entertained as he began to talk and felt overjoyed by the fact that the defeat of Akatsuki by his hands was becoming more plausible as time went by. Tsunade enjoyed the younger boys company as she knew that she wouldn’t be experiencing such moments after some time. She decided to leave the paperwork that she had to complete and continued conversing with the boy whom she considered a brother as she felt it more important to spend time with him. However what she didn’t know was that her personal assistant Shizune was currently running over various places around Konoha in a desperate attempt to find her in order to complete her duties. Before they realised the sun had begun to set and Naruto felt his stomach rumble viciously asking for food. The two walked into the city as Naruto went to his favourite Ramen stand and Tsunade made her way back to the Hokage tower.

Chapter 7: Strength Of Unity
Sasuke was currently sitting in the deserted Uchiha district. The setting bought back painful memories of the past yet he found himself attached as it also helped him remember the times of happiness. It was the last remaining remnant of the Uchiha clan like him. The district was desolate giving an aura of eeriness but the black haired teenager also recognised the tranquillity in the air.
He was presently seated in the back yard of his superior sized dwelling whilst having his evening meal. The sun was setting leaving a red tinge in the clear sky. Even though he wouldn’t admit it openly he was happy to have returned to Konoha, although many shinobi were still distrusting of him due to his willing departure to Orichamaru. The path he had led after the fateful day of the Uchiha massacre was one of hate and blinded by revenge. The pain of having the one person he admired as a child and aspired to become destroying all he held dear and loved had emotionally driven him to the brink of destruction.
Due to what was his sole reason for existence during that period of time he failed to realise that he had untied the strings around his carefully protected isolation and allowed new bonds to grow. The bonds he held with his team had strengthened over time until he finally began to enjoy life momentarily forgetting revenge as his sole driving purpose for living. The choices he had made in his life nearly cost him what was most important however he was saved from his fate by the one ninja who truly understood the Uchiha.
His initial return had been met with some distasteful comments from the majority of the shinobi populace. However Sasuke knew that he had invited such suspicions upon himself due to his actions. Yet he also realised that, through all the disbelieving glares directed towards him, Naruto stood by his side defending him. He had nearly killed the blond on more than one occasion yet the genin still protected him from the glares and hate of the shinobi which he rightly deserved.
The blond was an enigma to the Uchiha at first as the only common bond they shared was of loneliness. When Sasuke had discovered his blonde friend as the jailor of the Kyuubi, the hate and hardships that he must have endured were more recognisable to the Uchiha. The words the jinchuuriki had spoken at their encounter at the Valley of the End had shown the sorrow and sadness that Naruto withheld from his comrades on numerous occasions.
‘Why, Naruto? Why would you go this far for me?’
The question he had asked Naruto on that day and the answer he had received was now a lot clearer. He realised that he had not lost everything as he still had his friends. Naruto stood by his side after everything that had occurred. He had never before had a friend. He was used to being admired and ogled at yet he only now understood how deep his bond with Naruto went. They had both suffered immense emotional pain and the tormenting isolation of having nothing. He was truly happy that the blonde had not given up hope on him although he wouldn’t tell him that.
Sasuke rose from his position on the soft grass beneath him before walking into his house. He placed the empty bowl of food into the sink deciding to clean it up later. He hadn’t encountered the blonde at all over the past week and realised the awkwardness he displayed the last time he had seen him. Walking towards the front entrance of his house, he put on his sandals before walking out to find the hyperactive blonde ninja.
Shikamaru found himself walking through the streets of Konoha with his common lazy demeanour on display tired from attempting to locate the number one most surprising ninja in Konoha. He was enjoying surveying the clouds earlier during the day before he was interrupted by Ino. Shikamaru didn’t bother opposing the girl’s ‘request’ as he knew that he would end up doing it eventually. The only problem pertaining to this task was the fact that he scarcely had any time to himself due to the preparations for the upcoming chuunin exams hence he treasured his cloud watching sessions.
The shadow user was ultimately incapable of locating the blonde ninja. He had spent over 3 hours searching for the genin but was unsuccessful. Currently he was heading home as he had given up on tracking the blonde. He was about to turn the corner before he heard a rather large yell which sounded surprisingly familiar. He looked behind him to see Naruto yelling incoherent words with the occasional comprehendible few words about ramen thrown in. He smiled before muttering, “So troublesome.”
He turned around and headed towards the blonde’s direction. The shadow user walked up behind the blonde silently not giving any signs of his approaching presence. He had reached within a few feet of his target before the blonde spun around on his feet and shouted, “SHIKAMARU!”
Shikamaru nearly fell over from the volume of the unorthodox greeting. “Naruto, why do you have to be so troublesome?”
His comment didn’t faze the blond as he stood there with a dumbfounded expression, “Huh?”
The two looked at each other in silence, both confused momentarily. Shikamaru shook himself out of his stupor, “Ah…forget about that Naruto.”
Shikamaru walked beside the blonde as he headed towards the destination for his meal. “Naruto…we’re holding a gathering of friends in a few days. I was told to find and inform you to attend.”
Naruto gave a small laugh, “And they asked your lazy, cloud watching ass to come and find me?”
Shikamaru remarkably felt a little sting at the cloud watching remark. “Anyways, I’ve spent the last three hours looking for you.”
The jinchuuriki’s eyes visibly widened at this, “Nani? Three hours? How did you manage that?”
Shikamaru kept his lazy expression, “It was troublesome.” The chuunin then proceeded to pull out a piece of paper from his vest pocket before handing it to the genin. It contained the invitation to the get together as it was a private party for shinobis. It also had information on the location and time.
The shadow user continued walking with the blonde, “So, Shikamaru, which test are you the examiner for?”
Shikamaru instantaneously grimaced upon being reminded that he was going to be an examiner at the forthcoming exam. “The written exam…so troublesome.”
Naruto laughed at him before patting him on his back, “Come on, all you have to do is stand there. You could just as easily look at the clouds though the window.”
Shikamaru inwardly smiled whilst his blonde friend attempted to cheer him up, “Aren’t you entering Naruto?” The shadow user noticed the poignant look that spread across his comrade’s visage but it vanished as quickly as it came.
The demon container scratched the back of his head, “Heh heh…I think it would be unfair if I entered. I’ll probably take one of the later ones. I’ve got other matters to attend to first.”
The Nara was apprehensive of the blonde’s statements. Naruto was one of the ninjas who valued their shinobi careers beyond anything else. However what piqued the chuunins curiosity was what the blonde had stated last. He knew that Akatsuki was currently after him although he didn’t know for what reason exactly. However he was sure that Naruto could compete in the chuunin exams as he was safe within the boundaries of Konoha. Also from what he knew the genin wasn’t currently taking any missions with his team either.
They continued walking until they finally stood outside of Naruto’s favourite ramen stand. Naruto walked in and took a seat. The shadow user said his goodbyes before beginning to head to the direction of his home. He realised that he was now further from his home than he was initially, ‘So troublesome.’
Zetsu was at present travelling through the country of Rain hot on the trail of the Schichibi container. His infiltration into the country had been moderately trouble-free as the Akatsuki member was specialised in stealth due to his unique abilities to merge with his surroundings.
The man who had a Venus fly trap structure enclosing his body was not personally known by any of the other Akatsuki members and his origin was a mystery to everyone excluding the leader of the organisation himself. Not much was known about him except that he was the second member to have become part of the notorious organisation.
Zetsu separated himself from the ground before looking around the desolate plains that he was standing in. The area looked as if it had been completely destroyed. The only remains were that of shattered pieces of rocks and numerous craters.
Zetsu continued to observe his surroundings with emotionless eyes, “Having trouble controlling our powers, are we?” He quickly determined which direction his designated target had taken before once again continuing his hunt.
Naruto had just finished his second bowl of miso ramen and showed no signs of stopping anytime soon. Although unknown to others he enjoyed spending time at the stand for other reasons than just the food. This had been the location where he had experienced the first act of kindness towards him.
His first meeting with the Sandaime had been in this ramen stand when the old man had offered to treat the young blonde. Ironically this was also the place where the two shinobi would experience their final encounter with each other. Naruto remembered the last day he spent with the man who he looked towards as a grandfather. It was during the month of preparation given to candidates before the chuunin exam finals.
The genin was excitedly gulping down numerous bowls of ramen. The training he had taken up with Jiraiya took a lot of energy out of him therefore he found himself enjoying the noodle soup even more than he would generally. “Hey, old man, another one!”
The eccentric ninja slammed his chopsticks on the counter before he eagerly awaited the arrival of his next bowl. “Ah, Naruto-kun. I see you’re enjoying yourself.”
The blonde looked behind him to see the Sandaime looking at him with a smile across his face. “Hey, ojiisan, what are you doing here?”
The older man gave a small laugh at the blonde’s hyper activeness, “I was just taking a walk. Mind if I join you?”
The blonde nodded his head whilst giving a glace towards the cook to see whether his ramen was cooked yet. The Hokage of Konoha took a seat next to the young boy before placing his order, “I’ll have a miso ramen.”
The owner of the ramen stand quickly replied, “Hai, Hokage-sama, right away.” The cook immediately took to preparing the meal for the most respected person in Konoha.
The Sandaime drew his attention back towards the blond to his left, “So, are you training hard for the finals?”
“Yeah, I’ve even got a great sensei. He helped me with my chakra control. But he concentrates too much on peeping at women.” Sandaime’s eyes widened in recognition at this remark, “Baka, Ero-sennin.”
He chuckled as he realised the name the young genin had given to one of the legendary three. The blonde continued with his animated rant, “You just watch me, ojiisan. I’m going to show everyone how far I’ve come. I’m going to win the finals. Then it’s only a matter of time before you have to give your position as Hokage to me.”
The Sandaime decided now would be the best time to impart some of his wisdom onto the enthusiastic young ninja, “Naruto.” The Sandaime’s serious demeanour instantly caught the attention of the rookie genin.
“Becoming Hokage…means putting the benefits of the people of the village before your own. This village has had some great leaders. The latest of who met an early and tragic end.” He looked towards the blonde who had a downcast expression.
The old man continued, “The Shodaime used to say, ‘The comrades in Konoha are parts of my body. The villagers believe in me, and I believe in them. That is what a Hokage is supposed to do.’ This is one of the first things he taught me.”
The blonde gave the older man his undivided attention, “Not everyone is capable of becoming Hokage. Strength is not what determines the rightful person for such a position. The person chosen to lead the village must have a great heart also. The Hokage is someone who must protect our country’s ideals and our way of life.”
The blonde had an expression of sorrow as well as determination within his sapphire eyes, “That is why I must become Hokage.”
The Sandaime turned to look at the boy upon his last statement, “I’ve been alone for all my life. The pain, the anguish, and the sadness…all these things they hurt so much.”
The older man felt his insides jolt with pain as he knew the blonde didn’t deserve such a fate. The ramen shop owner and his daughter Akane listened to the blonde’s mournful words.
The genin sighed before continuing. “I want to prove to these people. That no matter what they think I love this village and would protect it with my life. ‘Protect the ones who love the village and believe in you.’ That is what I learned when reading about the Nidaime.” The youth paused for a few moments before he continued, “The pain I’ve suffered…I don’t want anyone else to feel that pain…that is why…I must become greater than any of the Hokages.”
The genin’s eyes were full of unbridled resolve. The ramen chef and his daughter wiped away the few stray tears from their face. The Hokage looked at the boy filled with pleasure. He placed a hand on the young boys shoulder, “I believe in you Naruto…become a Hokage like there has never been before.”
End Flashback
Naruto had a large smile spread across his face as a single solitary tear trickled down his face before he abruptly wiped it away. ‘Ojiisan…I won’t fail you. I may not become Hokage…but I’ll make sure that nothing happens to Konoha.’
“So, this is where you were?” Naruto turned to see Sasuke looking at him. He adopted a huge grin across his whiskered face.
“I never expected you to be actually looking for people to socialise with.” He gave a small laugh, “You must be getting soft.”
The Uchiha smirked at his friend, “Whatever, dobe, walk with me.” The blonde nodded and got ready to pay for his food. He was stopped by Akane who simply smiled at him and told him it was on the house. He gave her an appreciative nod and left.
It was a peaceful night and most of the shops around Konoha had closed for the day as it was nearing midnight. This added to the already serene atmosphere. The two newly reunited friends walked in silence neither speaking but rather enjoying their surroundings. Naruto hadn’t seen his friends for some time due to the fact that he was so engaged with his training that he appreciated the fact Sasuke had come looking for him. Although, the two hadn’t talked with each other very openly since the Uchiha’s return Sasuke wanted to understand why Naruto went so far to return him.
The two eventually ended up at their team’s regular meeting place. Sasuke made his way over to the railing of the bridge before looking over the side into the water below. Naruto walked to the rail opposite Sasuke and sat on top facing toward the black haired teenagers back whilst letting his legs hang haphazardly.
“You’ve been training.” The sharingan user’s statement was simple and to the point.
Naruto looked up towards the sky. “You noticed, huh?” The blonde’s carefree gaze remained upon the dark sky of Konoha.
“Kakashi-sensei informed us that you wouldn’t be taking missions with us since you’re still recovering.” The stoic teenager looked into the water below which was extremely calm.
Naruto scratched the back of his head, “Heh, that’s not the entire truth but Kakashi-sensei doesn’t know that. I’m probably not going to be doing any missions for another couple of months. Think of it as a long break.”
Sasuke wondered what would make Naruto take such a long leave of absence from shinobi duty. The minutes passed by in silence as both shinobis continued to observe the environment captivated by the calm night.
Sasuke released a heavy sigh, “How…?” The jinchuuriki looked towards his friend, “How did you not lose hope in me?”
Naruto jumped off his railing before walking towards where the Uchiha stood and mimicked his position, “Even in the depths of darkness…there is still light…If one never gives up…there is always hope.”
The shinobis stared at the few fish in the water swim around carelessly, “When did you become so wise?” The Uchiha gave a sad chuckle, “After everything I’ve done…you stand by me as if nothing happened?” Sasuke looked at his comrade who was staring intently into the sparkling water below. “Why…Naruto?”
Naruto looked up at the sky as the stars shimmered illuminating the night sky, “Because of you all…” A smile spread across his whiskered face, “I never gave into hate.”
Sasuke looked at the blonde with slight shock as he never knew that the Kyuubi container came close to breaking. He realised now that his happiness was mask covering his true feelings. The smile was still on the genin’s visage, “Before you all came along…I was beginning to lose hope…but then I found friends …those who acknowledged me…those who understood me.”
Sasuke felt the twinge of loneliness sting at his heart. He was familiar with his friend’s ache. “Our bond was one of the first one’s I’ve ever had…when you left…so did a part of me.”
The Uchiha looked towards his blonde friend, the guilt clearly written across his face, “I’m sorry, Naruto.”
The jinchuuriki looked towards the sharingan user whilst a warm smile spread across his face. He placed his hand on his shoulder, “Everything is alright now though. That’s what matters.”
Sasuke stared into his friend’s eyes. He saw the genuine happiness yet it was concealing another emotion. He looked towards the sky and felt peace inside him after a vastly elongated period of time, “...Arigatou, Naruto.”
He turned to walk towards the direction of his home but was stopped by the blonde’s voice. “What are friends for?” A smile spread across his face before he continued towards his abode.
Naruto stood there looking at the Uchiha’s back as he faded into the darkness of the trees. Everything had seemingly returned to as normal as possible except he hadn’t told them about his approaching death. He decided he would wait until he was ready. Looking up at the specks of sparkling lights in the sky, he closed his eyes inhaling the various smells and freshness of the air. The thoughts of Konoha spread through his mind, the villagers with their duties, the innocent children playing and the shinobi as their protectors. He remembered the Sandaime and how he gave his life to protect what he loved.

Chapter 8: An Art Called Kenjutsu
Naruto looked at the thousand clones before him working unremittingly at their given tasks. He was now beginning his second week of training and the gravity seal was activated once again. He found that since his muscles had gained the sufficient amount of rest that he was a lot more accustomed to the seal and its physics. He was capable of jogging with relative ease although he still couldn’t run at his maximum speed.
Due to the recent scrolls he had received from Jiraiya he now had 7 groups of clones. There were 5 groups of 100, each practicing their given scroll. The scrolls gave detailed instructions on how to accomplish manipulation of their particular element before going on to describe how to perform techniques. From what he knew of the scrolls, they were made by Jiraiya personally and he could effortlessly tell that the frog hermit had acquired a vast amount of knowledge on his travels. He was grateful towards his perverted sensei for all the help he had given him over the past week. He knew that his growth wouldn’t be increasing at such a substantial pace without his help.
He looked towards the proximity of the raging waterfall where the remaining two groups were practicing. They were divided into two groups of 250 clones each as he wanted them to finish their tasks as quickly as possible so they could join the remaining groups in learning how to manipulate the different elements. He saw one of his clones manage to travel over halfway up the waterfall before losing his balance and falling towards the plunge pool below. He looked in the direction of the remaining group that was attempting to refine the techniques he knew so that he could execute them with one handed seals. He knew that several techniques would not be capable of being performed with one handed seals however he wanted to know all the ones that could be.
Leaving his shadow clones to their training he prepared to leave to see the Godaime in order to find a sensei to teach him kenjutsu. The wind blew past him roughly as the weather was going through changes due to the season of autumn that had arrived. He looked around at the trees that were once a luscious green, now decaying, and their once bright green leaves crumpling to the ground. He walked forward about to leave the vicinity of the tree he had been standing under prior to a rotting leaf falling in front of his oceanic eyes. He reached out his hand so it safely landed in his warm touch. He took in the leafs characteristics, what was once a organism with an abundance of beauty and strength was now nothing more than a putrefying piece of vegetation losing all it’s quality. He crushed the leaf with a reverberating crunch before throwing it to the soft ground below and continued onwards to his destination.
Sakura walked into the Yamanaka’s flower shop in order to meet with her friend. The kunoichi felt comfortable around the various flowers as it was one of her favourite activities to learn about the striking organisms. Once being appointed as Tsunade’s apprentice she had learned about the different qualities of various herbs to understand how to concoct medicines that could be used efficiently for healing purposes.
“Ohayo…” The Yamanaka looked towards the entranceway, “Sakura? Shouldn’t you be on a mission?” Ino asked her pink haired friend rather loudly.
The medic-nin walked until she was standing directly in front of the blonde girl with only the counter separating the two, “Yeah, I have to meet up with the team in about 20 minutes. I’m not expecting much of a mission since we’re restricted to Konoha.”
Ino nodded knowing about Sasuke’s punishment, “What brings you here? Were you getting lonely?” Ino laughed as she said this.
Sakura was quick to raise an eyebrow however instead of erupting into one of her usual anger filled tirades she crossed her arms over her chest. She quickly began to think about how she would tell her friend the real reason for being here without being overly embarrassed. The kunoichi continued contemplating not noticing her friend’s annoyance at her descent into her own personal world.
Ino poked the medic’s forehead, “Hey, are you feeling alright? You didn’t get angry or anything.”
Sakura slapped the blonde’s hand away before clearing her throat, “Yeah, I’m fine. I just needed to ask you something.”
Her fellow kunoichi stared at her nails with an impartial look on her face, “About what?”
“Um…” Sakura gave out a nervous laugh before continuing, “…it’s about Naruto.”
The blonde rapidly faced the blonde before a playing smile appeared across her pretty face, “What, is forehead girl falling for the loudmouth boy?”
Sakura quickly vented her anger, “No, it’s nothing like that.”
“Fine, no need to get angry.” She resumed looking at her nails, “What is it then?”
Sakura didn’t understand what drove her to ask this from her friend however she felt she had to know, “You said he bought flowers from you,” Ino’s face had a saddened look upon it which didn’t go unnoticed by Sakura; “I just wanted to know whether he said for who.”
The blonde looked at her friend, all traces of her previous expression having faded, “He said it was for…someone he’s lost.”
The pink haired girl looked a little taken aback suddenly feeling slightly ashamed of her inquisitiveness. “Oh…” She gave her friend a small smile before turning towards the exit.
She was interrupted from leaving by Ino’s voice, “You know, you sure are interested in his flower buying habits. Worried it was for…some girl.” Ino had a knowing smile on her face which the other kunoichi couldn’t see due to having her back towards the blonde.
Sakura didn’t fully understand the blonde kunoichi’s insinuation rather dwelling more on why she was so curious to know the recipient of Naruto’s flower. She felt a little relieved knowing that it wasn’t for some girl but couldn’t entirely understand the feeling she had in the pit of her stomach. She had been feeling like this towards the blonde a lot more often recently. She shook herself out of her thoughts before looking back at her friend with a smile across her face, “Whatever, Ino-pig. I’ll see you at the get together.”
The medic-nin left the shop whilst Ino had an annoyed glint in her eye; the feeling of lividness building within her.
Naruto had now been patiently waiting for nearly an hour whilst the Hokage handed out missions to the shinobi’s that came. Nonetheless his urge for an excessive outburst was slowly collecting within him as he hadn’t got an opportunity to talk to the blonde gambler due to the amount of shinobi’s arriving consistently every minute, either for an assignment or to report the completion of a mission. He heard the Hokage mumble something about some stupid ninjas that should’ve here by now helping her followed by some low voiced profanities that he couldn’t make out clearly due to his distance from her position.
A relieved sigh escaped his mouth upon seeing the last shinobi leaving with their mission. He made a move towards the desk of the Godaime before the door burst open with a jounin and his genin team following behind. Naruto felt his patience eradicated as a new feeling of anger rose within him, “HELL NO! YOU ALL ARE GOING TO WAIT WHILE I GO FIRST! THERE’S NO WAY I’M STANDING FOR THIS ANYMORE!”
The jounin instantly had a twitch within his eye at the volume of the loudmouthed blonde whilst his newly appointed team of genin cowered behind him. Naruto felt his rage deflate upon seeing the actions of the fresh genin as the Hokage stifled a laugh at his childish actions. Shizune on the other hand looked on in confused shock.
The jinchuuriki scratched the back of his head, “Heh heh…uh…sorry about that.”
He quickly turned to face the Hokage as his apology only had a mild effect on the status of the children. He quickly walked forwards so he was standing a few feet away from the large desk.
“Tsunade-baachan,” The jounin and his team looked at the Hokage awkwardly upon hearing the blonde’s informal greeting whilst she glared back with a look that said ‘you try that and you’ll regret it.’ “I was wondering whether I could get a kenjutsu teacher.”
The Godaime had a thoughtful look upon her face before she looked through a few papers. “Ah, found it.” She pulled out a blank paper. Naruto merely looked puzzled before the Godaime proceeded to write something on the paper and handed it to the blonde genin.
“Go to the jounin lounge and ask for Shiranui Genma. Give him this note and he’ll understand.” The blonde nodded before hearing distinct voices approaching the room they were in. The door opened to reveal none other than Hatake Kakashi, Uchiha Sasuke and Haruno Sakura.
“Tsunade-shisou, sorry we’re…” The pink haired medic stopped when her vision took in the blonde shinobi standing with a paper in hand. “Naruto…”
The hyperactive ninja had a large smile across his face, “Hey, Sakura-chan…” He stopped, “What are you all doing here?”
Sakura instantly felt angry at his remark, “Baka! We haven’t seen you in over a week and that’s all you have to say.” The jounin and his team moved out of the way backing into a wall on the side.
“Huh? I saw Sasuke yesterday.” The Uchiha wiped the smirk from his face upon being dragged into the combustible situation. The pink haired medic looked at her nonchalant team mate who gave her a simple nod after clearing his throat.
Sakura looked back at the blonde, the fire in her eyes washed out, “…But I didn’t.”
Naruto looked at the kunoichi who had a hurt expression in her eyes. The blonde felt dire upon making her feel in such a way but didn’t realise she would react this way, “Gomen, Sakura-chan…I’ve been busy.”
Sakura felt calmed at seeing the blonde act like his usual self and reassured by his words. She gave him a smile and shook her head, “It’s alright.”
The pink haired medic felt her cheeks become a little warm before asking her next question, “Uh…Naruto, are you going to be coming to the party?”
The Uchiha felt a smile cultivate his normally expressionless visage whereas the unperturbed Kakashi had a smirk underneath his mask. He lowered his orange book and focused his attention towards the medic and blonde.
Naruto looked up towards the ceiling; he hadn’t thought much of the invitation and wasn’t really planning on going since he was preoccupying his time with training, “Uh...I’m not sure.”
Sakura felt her mood change and the smile drop from her beautiful face, “Oh…”
Tsunade, noticing her apprentice’s obvious change in demeanour, quickly slapped the back of Naruto’s head, “ITAI!”
He glared at the Hokage caressing the spot upon which he was stricken. Tsunade resumed with an unbothered expression, “Come here brat.”
Naruto cautiously moved forward until Tsunade spoke to him so that he would be the only one to hear, “I understand you’re training…but you should really spend time with your friends. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself once in a while…”
The jinchuuriki moved backwards standing still for a few moments. He made his way towards the way out but was gripped by Sakura’s hand on his jacket as he passed her. He immediately halted his movement whilst the kunoichi stared into his sapphire eyes. Sakura saw his normally vibrant eyes lacking the usual passion and warmth. She quickly realised her actions and let go, muttering a soft apology.
The pink haired kunoichi began assessing what she observed. She knew that something wasn’t right; his eyes seemed like a veil desperately attempting to hide something. She was broken out of her thoughts abruptly by a familiar sound, “I’ll see you all there.”
Sakura forgot all her preceding thoughts as she stared at the position the blonde had been a few seconds before. Unknowingly an uplifting smile was across her face.
In front of the haphazard blonde were numerous shinobi. Some were standing whilst others were seated however all were engaged in some sort of activity ranging from conversations to playing cards. Naruto had never been in the jounin lounge before but it was a large room with an assortment of furniture as well as a table to the side with basic refreshments. Originally he was planning on shouting for the man named Genma but now realised that there were too many shinobi and he didn’t know many of them. Shouting could result in a few kunai thrown his way out of instinct. Observing the people in the room he searched for someone familiar and in the corner was Sarutobi Asuma, Yuhi Kurenai and none other than Hyuuga Neji.
The blonde walked through the crowd of jounins and made his way over to the 3 jounins that were far from the commotion.
Asuma took out his cigarette from his mouth and blew out smoke whilst his eyes fixed upon a blonde figure standing a few feet away from him. “Asuma-sensei.”
Asuma quickly had a smirk across his face whilst the genjutsu mistress and Hyuuga simply nodded. The Sarutobi reinserted his cigarette into his mouth. “Naruto, how can I help you?”
Naruto quickly remembered his reason for coming here, “I’m looking for Shiranui Genma.”
The genjutsu mistress was the one to speak, “Genma? Why are you looking for him?”
“I need a kenjutsu teacher.” The blonde sat down and put his elbows on his knees relaxing a little from travelling with the seal for so long. The Hyuuga raised an eyebrow noticing the tense figure of the jinchuuriki. He decided not to ask but kept an eye on him nonetheless.
Asuma decided to reply, “Genma’s currently out on a mission, and he should be coming back soon.”
Naruto leaned back, “I guess I’ll just wait.”
The branch member of the Hyuuga household decided on a new topic, “I’m assuming you have received an invitation.”
“Yeah.” The blonde continued observing his surroundings.
Asuma, throwing his finished cigarette into the trash, pulled out another and lit it, “So, you’re coming?”
Naruto looked towards the bearded jounin, “Yeah…and I’m guessing you’re all going to be there also.” He directed his attention towards the calm Hyuuga. “And you are too?”
Neji scoffed at being the centre of attention and knowing that it was uncharacteristic for him to participate in such occasions however since his loss to the younger blonde he had mellowed out and enjoyed spending time with his team mates once in a while. “Gai-sensei and Lee can be very convincing.” His simple reply bought out a laugh from Naruto.
“Speaking of Gai-sensei where is he?” Upon the end of Naruto’s words, the door to the jounin lounge flew open revealing the man clad in his green spandex glory.
The enigmatic Gai ran through the room and arrived upon the location of his student before he realised a certain blonde seated. His mind quickly went to work coming to a drastic conclusion, “Yosh! Naruto-kun has made jounin. The fire within you truly burns brightly.” He ended his loud speech with a blinding smile.
The others sweat dropped whilst Naruto gave out a nervous laugh, “Uh…actually, I’m not jounin. I’m just waiting for someone here.”
Gai’s face faulted, “Do not worry young one, your youth will propel you to new levels.” He gave Naruto a thumbs up attempting to lighten the mood before turning his attention to Neji, “Our youthful team has received a mission, come Neji, we must leave.”
Naruto saw the energetic sensei leave with his student before turning his awareness towards the other two jounin. An hour passed until a jounin chewing on a senbon entered the lounge and sat opposite Asuma greeting the other shinobi.
“So you’ve finally returned Genma.” The smoker’s speech broke Naruto out of his daydream as he looked at the senbon chewing jounin.
“Eh? You’re Genma?” The blonde recognised the jounins familiar appearance, “Wait, you’re the one who was a referee in the finals of the chuunin exams that I was a part of.”
Genma rolled the senbon from one side of his mouth to the other, “Yeah, that’s right.”
Naruto searched through his pockets before pulling out the piece of paper he received from the Godaime and handed it to the relaxed jounin. Genma took the paper and began to read its contents. Upon reading his eyebrows raised and he finally put the paper in his own pocket. He nodded to the jinchuuriki before signalling him to follow.
The two shinobi left the jounin lounge and walked through the streets of Konoha and arrived at a training ground. The Kyuubi vessel realised that he had never been in this training ground before and observed its dull setting. There were a few trees and the rest was just hard ground.
Genma stopped Naruto and walked ahead standing opposite the vessel. “I’ve been assigned to teach you kenjutsu. This is my mission for the next few weeks. However, from what I can see you have no weapon to train with.”
Naruto had a foxy grin planted across his whiskered face before performing the Souansha Heijin technique. Two swords made of wind materialised from thin air slowly taking shape around his hands. Genma had to stop his senbon needle falling from his mouth. The control the blonde was showing over his elemental affinity was something a lot of jounins struggled with. He also recognised that he had seen a familiar technique when he fought Baki from Suna. However the Suna-nin was only capable of creating one weapon of wind.
He cleared his throat, “Quite ingenious. Weapons created from your element no doubt.” He raised his index finger and continued, “However to sustain such a technique would drain a lot of chakra.”
“I’ve got a lot of chakra so that’s not really a problem.” The blonde stood focused with his weapons giving off a hissing sound.
Genma began to think about how he could teach the genin kenjutsu. He removed his hand from his chin, “Teaching you how to use kenjutsu with that technique rather than a regular sword will be quite different and is probably not possible.”
Naruto deactivated his technique with a downcast expression. Genma quickly resumed, “However if you were to get regular weapons. I could teach you the art of kenjutsu and you could apply the principles you learn to your technique.”
The senbon chewing ninja removed his weapon from its sheath before throwing it to the Kyuubi vessel. Naruto caught the weapon in his right hand; he observed the katana with interest noting its significant appearance within his mind. “When fighting with a sword, you must always remember to think of it as an extension of yourself. When your mind adapts to such a concept, you’ll find that you’re a lot more adept at utilising your sword.”
The jounin rolled the senbon whilst the blonde carefully listened to his words, “However to truly master such an art, it takes years of practice and hard work. The fact you were already utilising weapons of wind must mean that you have a solid grasp of the basics. This’ll save us some time and we can move on to the more complicated concepts.”
Naruto nodded with a steel look of determination. Genma smirked before turning to face him, “Then let us begin.”

Chapter 9: Twilight Dance
Naruto stood in front of a large building which was bright enough to provide light for the whole street. He had never been in the posh districts of Konoha often, especially at night however it was an amazing sight to behold. He took a quick look at his invitation to make sure this was the right place. A smile crept across his face as he walked through the entrance. He was in a large lobby with a few people walking around attending to their own personal business. He walked to the front desk with a confused expression as he had no idea where to go in this humongous structure.
The leaf-nin was dressed in more casual attire than his ordinary shinobi wear. He wore a tight fitting red top accentuating his well defined body as well as pitch black trousers which were loose around his legs. His head protector was tied around his right arm letting his golden hair fall down from their usual pointed position. The jinchuuriki handed his invitation to the receptionist hoping for some help. The worker quickly took a look at the paper and handed it back before directing him where to go. He thanked him before heading to the second floor. Walking through a few hallways he came upon a large set of doors with two men standing in front. The two let him through aware of the head protector he proudly wore.
Naruto eyes were threatening to fall out as he stared in awe at the hall he had walked into. It was of gargantuan proportions with a large amount of distance between the floor and ceiling. The ceiling was made of pure crystal glass allowing the people to look at the wondrous and beautiful sky outside. The golden lights in the white chandeliers perfectly lit the chamber. There were elegantly patterned columns around the room supporting the ceiling and the floor was covered in majestic marble. There was a dance floor in the centre of the room whilst musicians played classical music using instruments varying from the violin to the piano. He let the soothing music enter his ears fully appreciating its calm quality. A large table which hosted fresh h’orderves was present along with numerous tables for people to sit at. Observing his surroundings he realised that there were well over a hundred people attending the party. All the shinobi were wearing casual clothes and some were even in finely tailored suits. He looked at the shinobi who looked anomalous, attired in such gentlemanly clothes. He choked as he tried to stop himself from bursting out in full blown laughter. He knew such a thing wouldn’t be appreciated since he was already over an hour late.
“Would you like a drink?” Naruto turned his attention to a cute brunette waitress no older than twenty standing in front of him. She carried a tray with her upon which there were slender glasses full of wine.
“Uh, no thanks, I’m too young.”
“Oh, my mistake.” The brunette quickly bowed. He could tell that she was new to her job.
“Heh, no problem miss.” He flashed a foxy grin noticing the blush which appeared across her thin face before she walked away.
The blonde placed his hand on his chin, “Heh heh, I must look good.”
“So you’ve finally arrived.” The whiskered boy broke out of his musings upon turning to face the bearer of the lazy voice.
The sight before him foiled all his previous effort in stifling his laughter as he let his vocal chords loose. “Troublesome.” The Nara shook his head as Naruto laughed at his apparel. The shadow user was fully clothed in a fine tuxedo letting his shirt hang loose attributing to his lazy posture. “Are you done?”
Naruto wiped the few tears from his eyes before addressing his friend, “Sorry, Shikamaru...it’s just that…” The jinchuuriki let a few more chuckles escape, “I would’ve never believed you would dress up in such a way if I hadn’t seen it myself.”
Shikamaru looked at his energetic friend who was already enjoying the party, “Stop being so troublesome, you’re already late.”
Naruto waved his hands defensively, “Sorry about that, I lost track of time whilst training. Genma can be a slave driver.”
The Nara merely continued in his usual tone, “Genma’s been present for a while now.”
The blonde raised an eyebrow, “Hey, I was the one doing most of the training. He just helped out every now and again.” He failed to add mention of his unconscious state due to mental fatigue upon dispelling his clones.
“Ohayo, Naruto.” The demon container twisted to see his large Akimichi friend with a plate of food in his hand. However what he instantly recognised was his similar appearance to the shadow user. He broke out into a fit of laughter again whilst Chouji looked on unaware of what was so funny.
After finally containing his laughter the genin finally spoke, “Is anybody else dressed like this? You’ve got to tell me in advance or I might die qui…” He quickly coughed realising his mistake, “…of laughter.” He scratched the back of his head sheepishly.
Chouji gazed at the delicacy within his grasp before entering it into his mouth whilst the Nara kept his lazy demeanour all the while inwardly contemplating his friend’s peculiar words. “There are a few others. We can continue this troublesome discussion elsewhere. I’ll show you to where the rest are.” ‘I knew wearing this was a bad idea, kaasan…such a troublesome woman.’
Naruto smiled before wrapping his arms around his two companion’s shoulders. “Lead the way.” The three shinobi headed in the direction of their companions.
Sakura sat at a table whilst talking with her fellow kunoichis. The most animated of which was her childhood friend Ino. However her mind was still on the hyperactive ninja. She was dressed in a fine white kimono made of the softest silk entailed with patterns of roses running along the side. She played with her short pink hair twirling it with her fingers. It had been an hour since the party had gotten underway and there was still no sign of the blonde knucklehead. Previously she thought that he would be late but as time went by she began to realise that he may not be coming at all. ‘Shannaro Naruto! You said you would come! I’m going to kick your ass when I see you! Hell Yeah!’
She let out a sigh before she noticed the large entrance doors open. Her worry flushed away as she saw the familiar ninja walk through and into the grand hall. The shinobi looked different from what Sakura was normally accustomed to seeing. She realised that he looked a lot better when he wore something that wasn’t such an eyesore. A smile was across her face before she realised a cute brunette waitress talking to him. She knew that it was their job to serve the guests but she felt a twinge within her and a growing feeling of anger.
The medic-nin rose from her seat about to walk to their location but was interrupted by a loud voice. “Oi, Sakura!”
The 16 year old turned to see her noisy friend looking at her, “Eh?”
“Where are you going?” The Yamanaka gazed past her friends figure noticing Naruto laughing at Shikamaru and Chouji. A knowing smile appeared across her face before she whispered into her friend’s ear. “You know, it’s better to make him wait.”
Sakura looked at her, an impression of confusion imprinted on her attractive facade, “Huh? What are you talking about?”
Ino let out a sigh, “Nevermind.”
The medic-nin looked at her annoyed friend before realisation of her implication dawned upon her, “Wait. It’s nothing like that.”
Ino turned from her friend preparing to walk towards the h’orderves table, “Sure.”
The Godaime’s apprentice was irritated with her friend’s casual manner. She looked back towards Naruto seeing him walk off with the shadow user and Akimichi. She didn’t comprehend the mixture of feelings she was experiencing but what gripped her attention was Ino’s implication.
“Sakura, you coming?” The medic-nin, broken from her thoughts, followed her fellow chuunin.
Naruto already having his insides hurting from laughing too much was glad to see that the rest of his friends didn’t look too out of place with their chosen garments. Neji was dressed in traditional Hyuuga garb and Shino was wearing clothes similar to his standard attire. Asuma was dressed up in a tuxedo just like his student and to his left Kurenai wore a striking purple kimono. He saw that Sasuke was sitting with his arms crossed over his chest dressed in a black and blue ensemble and next to him Kakashi was wearing a black tuxedo and his mask in its regular position. Amazingly the tuxedo suited the masked pervert well, “Looking smooth Kakashi-sensei.” He got a smile in return before being greeted by his friends.
He was pulled into a seat by the Godaime, “Good to see you made it. We needed another player.” He turned to the Hokage of the village who was dressed in a radiant green dress.
He voiced his confusion at the situation, “Eh?”
“Yosh! Now we can finally begin. Kakashi, prepare to suffer at my youthful hands.” The energetic speech caused Naruto to turn towards its bearer and a shudder drifted along his spine when he saw the blinding sight. The enigmatic Maito Gai and his student Rock Lee were dressed in matching green tuxedos.
Kakashi who was shuffling a deck of cards in his hands looked at his fellow jounin with his lazy eye, “Huh? You say something Gai?”
Gai instantly rose from his position, “DAMN YOU HATAKE WITH YOUR MODERN ATTITUDE.”
Kakashi continued shuffling the cards oblivious of the taijutsu specialists screaming. Naruto realised that they were about to play a game of cards but why did they need another player. “Tsunade-baachan, why do you need me?”
Asuma was the one to answer his question, “We’re playing in teams of two.” Naruto looked at the positions of the people around the circular table. Everyone was indeed in pairs of two.
To his right were the senseis of teams 8 and 10. Next to them were the taijutsu specialists, Gai and Lee. Sasuke was paired with his Icha Icha reading teacher and Neji was paired with the equally silent Shino. The only person remaining was the legendary sucker herself. He realised that he was her partner. He shrugged deciding not to protest at the teams knowing that they would most likely be the first ones to be eliminated.
Kakashi handed out the cards before adjusting his lazy eye in the direction of the standing Nara and Akimichi, “Last chance.”
Shikamaru shook his head, “This game is too troublesome.” He walked away with Chouji who now had an empty plate of food. Naruto picked up his cards looking at his relatively good hand.
“Yosh! Gai-sensei I have received great cards.” Lee was standing with sparkles in his eyes.
“Excellent my youthful student.” Gai focused on his eternal rival. “Kakashi, after this, the score will be 68 to 67 in my favour.”
The ex-Anbu merely continued to alter the cards in his hands. “What was that?”
Gai’s eyes were lit with fire, “KAKASHI! I WILL SHOW YOU THE BLINDING FIRE OF MY YOUTH!”
Everyone surrounding the table sweat dropped as they saw the unfathomable blue beast of Konoha scream incoherently.
Naruto chuckled. ‘Maybe we won’t be the first ones to be knocked out’
An hour later Tsunade let out a frustrated sigh as she punched the table destroying it. The remaining shinobi inched away from the decimated structure of wood aware of the Hokage’s volatile state. Naruto had a disappointed look on his face, ‘So much for not being eliminated first.’
The current leaders in the game were the stoic Hyuuga and Aburame as both had expressionless faces making it impossible to figure out whether they had received a good hand or not. Surprisingly Gai and his passionate student were close behind leaving Asuma and Kurenai in third place and the two members of team 7 in second to last place. Tsunade frustrated from losing so much money quickly left the vicinity of the card game in search of some sake.
Naruto gave a nervous laugh before hearing his stomach rumble. He hadn’t eaten any food since the morning. Deciding to fill himself up he left the remaining participants of the card game to pick up the pieces and relocate to another table.
Naruto had to stop himself from drooling as he saw the delicious assortment of food along the massive table. Carrying an empty plate he picked out a mixture of cakes and sweets. Although the food was mouth-watering he couldn’t find his favourite dish of ramen. He resigned himself to what he already had and took a seat at a nearby table.
Engaged with eating he failed to notice a kunoichi calling him. The kunoichi walked up to him and poked him on his head. “Naruto-kun?” He looked up to see Ten-Ten smiling at him.
“You really do zone out when eating huh?” The chuunin dressed in a light yellow dress sat down at the table.
“Sorry about that. Would you like some?” Ten-Ten shook her head.
“Tousan said that he’d have the kunais ready soon so come and pick them up in another three days.” Naruto nodded acknowledging her statement.
“Genma tells me that you’re training in kenjutsu.”
Naruto tried to stop himself from choking but was failing resorting to gulping down a full glass of water. “He told you that.”
The weapon mistress laughed at him, “Hai, why are you acting like it’s such a big deal?”
“No reason. You just took me with surprise.” He continued eating his food.
Ten-Ten adopted a more serious tone of voice with a hint of curiosity, “The kunai…” Naruto’s ears twitched, “…Is it really the one that the Yondaime used?”
The Kyuubi vessel finished swallowing the piece of chocolate cake that was in his mouth. “Yeah. He told you.” He was referring to her father.
The kunoichi nodded, “So you’re learning it, his prized technique.” Ten-Ten had taken up the task about learning the significance of the kunai that Naruto had handed in to be duplicated because of her father’s interesting statements. She had looked through a few books about the Yondaime eventually finding out that the kunai was used for his most lethal technique. Naruto grinned letting her know that she was correct in her assumptions.
She got up from her seat addressing the boy for the final time, “If you need a sparring partner to practice your sword skills, let me know. Genma said it would be good to have you practice with a variety of people so you’re not surprised by people whilst in battle.” She gave the blonde a smile before leaving.
Naruto rested his chin on his hands before looking through the shinobi populace in the hall attempting to locate the rest of his friends. He eyes darted around the room before they fell on the Godaime’s apprentice. Sakura was standing with Ino and Hinata on the other side of the room talking and laughing. However his attention was solely focused on the pink beauty as he found her to be enchanting. The white kimono she wore starkly contrasted from the colour of her hair drawing the observer’s attention to her pretty face. Naruto’s feelings for his team mate were still quite strong however he had accepted that he wouldn’t win the kunoichi’s heart as he thought that she would always be in love with the black haired Uchiha. However he realised that the pink haired medic wasn’t chasing Sasuke around like she used to during her earlier days as a genin, maybe he had a chance.
“Something caught your eye?” Naruto nearly fell over as he saw Sasuke looking at him with a smirk.
“Eh? What are you doing here?” The sharingan user placed his plate of food on the table before taking a seat.
“We got knocked out.” His answer caused Naruto to scan the room for his sensei, surely enough the masked and tuxedo wearing pervert was leaning against a wall reading his orange book. He sighed before turning back to his calm friend.
Unbeknownst to him Kakashi was keeping a keen eye on him paying attention to any unusual mannerisms that he might display. He had been curious about Naruto’s behaviour recently and brushed it off as just a phase before he learnt from Sasuke that the blonde was training even though he was taking a break from missions due to overtiredness.
“So, you’re playing card games now. What’s next, a wife and kids?” The unresponsive form of the Uchiha was enough to make Naruto burst out in laughter.
Sasuke glared at his friend, “Shut up, dobe.”
Quickly collecting himself Naruto addressed the teen, “What? It’s not my fault, I mean you never even paid attention to girls and now you’re set on getting one.” He laughed once again.
Sasuke ate some more of his sushi, “I have to revive my clan. And I never said that I would be finding a suitable wife straight away. It’ll probably be another few years before I decide to do anything.” He took another mouthful of his delectable food, noticing that Naruto’s vision had once again drifted to their other team mate. “Not that I can say the same for you.”
Naruto instantly stared in the direction of the Uchiha, “What’s that supposed to mean.”
The Uchiha smirked knowing he had the blonde in the palm of his hand, “A cherry blossom comes to mind.” He nodded towards the direction of their team mate.
Naruto looked at Sakura before his cheeks reddened. He laughed nervously trying quickly to come up with a response having been caught red-handed staring at her earlier on. Failing to think of anything he changed the topic, “I needed a partner to help with my kenjutsu training. Can you help?”
Sasuke raised an eyebrow aware of the Uzumaki dodging his insinuation, “I guess so. It’s been a while since I trained with my kusanagi.”
“That’s great, come to the jounin training grounds at 6pm tomorrow.” Naruto didn’t want him to see his other training method as the Uchiha would definitely become suspicious of his activities.
“Why there?” Sasuke wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and pushed his empty plate away from himself.
“I’m learning kenjutsu from a jounin. That’s the training ground we use.”
Sasuke nodded whilst they both sat in silence for a few minutes. Naruto let his gaze wonder to Sakura again. She was sitting at a table and Lee was talking to her. He saw the animated green beast of Konoha jump around before Sakura said something. The taijutsu specialist walked away with a disappointed look. He rose from his seat heading towards her direction leaving his friend.
Sakura was sitting at a table by herself. Hinata had left with her little sister to see their father. Ino went to search for someone to dance with as the rest of the rookie nine were ether too lazy or didn’t want to dance in the case of Neji or Shino. It was satisfying and funny to see her fellow kunoichi become so frustrated. She was going to speak with Naruto when he was eating but was interrupted by Ino and Hinata. She decided she would wait since she saw him speaking with Sasuke. Occupied with her wandering thoughts she didn’t notice the presence of the hyperactive ninja to her side.
“Sakura-chan.” She turned to see Naruto smiling at her.
She got up filled with anger, “Baka! Why were you so late?”
Naruto took a few steps back and waved his hands in front of him, “Gomen…I got distracted.” He began to sweat under the glare he was receiving knowing full well of the kunoichi’s wrath.
Sakura sighed before a smile was plastered across her face, “It doesn’t matter. So tell me, how do I look?” She gave a little twirl for added affect.
Naruto couldn’t help but blush before stuttering out, “…You…ahem. You look good.”
Sakura sat back down before the jinchuuriki pulled out a chair sitting next to her whilst they faced the dancing couples in the middle of the chamber. “Are you enjoying the party?”
“It’s been interesting.”
Sakura gave a little laugh, “Tsunade-shisou blames you for the loss at the card game.”
“Eh? Me? She’s the legendary sucker.” Naruto pouted and crossed his arms over his chest.
Sakura laughed at him, “No need to get upset. It’s not that bad.”
Naruto pulled out his frog shaped wallet from his pocket. He opened it and showed the emptiness within, “Look what she did to Gama-chan.” Sakura noticed the lack of money.
Naruto put the wallet back into his pocket, “Naruto…” he looked towards the pink haired medic recognising the worry in her voice whilst her eyes were fixed on the ground below, “…is it because of the transformation?” He was taken aback at the suddenness of the question.
Naruto’s eyes widened. Did she know? That shouldn’t be possible as he had only told Jiraiya and Tsunade. Sakura continued, “The exhaustion.”
Naruto inwardly sighed relieved she didn’t know of his coming death as he wasn’t ready to tell her just yet, “Yeah…I’ll be better in no time Sakura-chan.” He smiled at her, “I pr…guarantee it.” He was beginning to become uncomfortable as he had nearly made a promise that he knew he couldn’t keep.
“So…uh what happened to Lee? He looked quite down.” Sakura felt embarrassed but knew she couldn’t avoid answering it.
“He asked me for a dance and I said no.” She let out a tense laugh after finishing.
Naruto scratched his head feeling sorry for Lee but was also happy, “So…why’d you turn him down?”
Sakura coughed a little before muttering something. Naruto didn’t understand what she said so asked her to repeat it.
Sakura sighed, “I don’t know how to dance.”
The leaf-nin looked at her incredulously before he began to laugh. The pink haired girl slapped him hardly across the back of his head. “Baka! What’s so funny?”
Naruto rubbed his head, “That’s it?”
Sakura folded her arms, “What’s that supposed to mean? It’ not like you know how to either.”
Naruto scratched the back of his head, “Actually…I do.”
Sakura had to stop herself from screaming, “Eh?” She was boiling with fury secretly, ‘Shannaro! What the hell? Even he knows!’
Naruto raised his index finger going into his lecture mode, “Ero-sennin thought it mandatory for me to know how to court a woman in the proper way if I was to…” He was tentative of continuing.
“If you were to what?” She curiously waited for him answer.
“…If I was to be taught by the man who has women swooning over him at every angle and looks that make girls die of blood loss.” Both the shinobi began to laugh whole heartedly as they thought of the perverted sannin holding himself in such high esteem.
They enclosed their laughter and resumed sitting in silence as they looked at the couples on the dance floor. The song was finishing and the musicians were arranging to start another. He looked at the beauty to his left noticing the longing look in her eyes as she stared at the dance floor. A sweet smile appeared across his face and an idea in his mind. He got up from his seat before grasping her hand and pulling her up with him. A warm sensation travelled through both their bodies when their skin touched.
Sakura shocked by his actions was still feeling her hand tingling, “Naruto…what are you doing?”
He didn’t answer, instead pulling her behind him towards the dance floor. She was surprised and ultimately frightened of embarrassing herself when she realised that he was leading her to the core of the dance floor.
She didn’t get a chance to protest as they came to a halt, he turned and their eyes made contact. She took in the full beauty of the deepness within them. “Trust me.”
He placed her right hand on his shoulder before clutching her left hand with his right. Finally placing his left hand on her waist, he spoke in a soft voice, “Follow my lead.”
She nodded taking note of their closeness and began to redden. The musicians started to play again, a slow rhythmic piece of classical music. The romantic piece sent a warm sensation throughout her body. She had never been this close to the blonde before and recognised the peaceful smile across his handsome face. His hand was warm and his skin astonishingly smooth.
Naruto stared into the emerald eyes which had captivated and captured his heart on so many occasions. He enjoyed being this close to the medic-nin and felt pleased with knowing that he was the first person she danced with. All his previous feelings of anxiety and worry about messing up washed away as he let the soft caring music guide him in the dance.
The two shinobi danced slowly as Naruto tried to let the stunning girl in his arms get accustomed to the movements. He gave a smile, “See it’s not that hard.”
Sakura gave him a warm smile back, “…Thank you.”
Naruto gave a small laugh, “It’s my pleasure.”
They continued to dance as Sakura grew more comfortable with the art form. Naruto span her around once and pulled her back into him. Sakura, a little taken back with the force, crashed into him. Naruto chuckled lighly.
“Baka! What was that for?”
“Just keeping you on your toes.”
The two continued dancing unaware of everything else. All the other couples moved out of the way on order of the Godaime as she looked at the blond with a caring smile. She could tell that he was enjoying himself and she hadn’t felt this peaceful inside since his announcement to her.
The music became softer and slower as Sakura wrapped her arms around Naruto’s neck and rested her head against his shoulder. The genin wrapped his defined arms around her waist before continuing to dance slowly. The lights above them shone brightly illuminating the dance floor with a dazzling golden colour reflecting the inner feelings of happiness that the two shinobi were experiencing.
Naruto gave out a soft chuckle before whispering, “I would’ve never thought I would get the opportunity to dance with you.”
Naruto felt her breath through his red top sending a nice feeling through his body. He could tell that she was smiling. “Life is full of surprises.”
He sighed sorrowfully feeling desolate inside, “Isn’t that the truth.”
Closing his eyes, he inhaled the fresh smell of her hair, “Arigatou…Sakura-chan.”
The musicians slowly came to a stop as the two parted feeling the warmth escape from their bodies after being separated. Sakura stared into his bright blue eyes as he gave an affectionate smile. Their faces inched closer before the sound of clapping broke them from their actions. They turned to realise that they were the only ones on the dance floor with the rest of the shinobi staring at them.
The onlookers broke out into applause as Sakura and Naruto blushed feeling embarrassed at having an intimate moment observed by so many people. They heard a wolf whistle noticing the familiar voice break out through the crowd.
“GO NARUTO! I KNEW YOU HAD IT IN YOU!” The voice was accompanied with what sounded like happy barks. Naruto turned to see Kiba grinning at him whilst sitting on his faithful companion Akamaru.
He scratched the back of his head and led Sakura off the dance floor and away from the attention. The kunoichi was swamped by her friends who started talking to her whilst the rest of the shinobi resumed normally. Naruto smiled in the direction of Sakura who was now facing away from him.
Sakura accepted all the compliments whole heartedly and couldn’t stop blushing as she realised that she had been so close to the hyperactive ninja and everybody had seen it. She turned to where he was but couldn’t find him. Looking around the room, the genin was nowhere in sight.
Naruto let out a heavy sigh as he stood on the balcony. He had left all the commotion inside by going through the glass doors which led outside. The full moon shone vibrantly accompanied with the sparkling stars. The water below glittered as it reflected the night sky. He looked into the distance at the Hokage monument being reminded of his duty.
“Nice dance.” The ex-Anbu walked forwards until he was standing next to his student.
Naruto closed his eyes, “Thanks Kakashi-sensei.”
They both remained in silence enjoying the peaceful atmosphere which was a stark contrast from the hectic party. “So, how are you doing?” Kakashi keenly awaited his student’s response.
A smile broke out across the vessels face, “Quite good.”
Not receiving the answer he wanted Kakashi continued, “Whenever I’m not feeling well inside or if there is something that I am finding hard to cope with. I look towards nature to provide peace within me.” He gazed at the beautiful scenery in front of him, “It’s amazing what a person feels when he takes his time to see the natural beauty of the world we live in. It’s calm…and comforting.”
He turned to face his student who still had his eyes shut, “Is that why you’re here?”
Naruto opened his eyes as he sighed. He could tell Kakashi knew that not everything was right with the genin but he wasn’t sure that he should tell him. “I…” He looked at the masked jounin, “...I should probably get some rest. It’s past midnight.”
The jinchuuriki made his way towards the glass doors, “Friends support each other Naruto. You can always rely on us.” Naruto waved before continuing, a genuine smile across his visage. He reached towards the glass doors but stopped when somebody from inside pulled them open.
The Hokage walked onto the balcony giving the younger boy a smile, “Get some rest.” He smiled at the older woman before leaving.
The Godaime, after knowing that the leaf-nin had left the vicinity, looked towards his sensei who seemed troubled. She walked forwards and rested her arms against the railing of the balcony. She hesitated for a few moments, “There is…something you should know.”

Chapter 10: Living For The Future
Naruto had now successfully completed two weeks of training without much difficulty. His clones had mastered chakra control to the extent that he was now capable of reaching the top of the tremendous waterfall. The ones who were trying to perform one handed seals had done as much possible with the current techniques that he knew so he decided that he would let all 1000 of his shadow clones concentrate solely on learning manipulation of the elements as the task was proving to be a lot more complicated than he formerly thought it would be.
He had already mastered the wind element as it was his affinity consequently his clones were rapidly progressing in learning the Futon techniques. Manipulation of the earth element was proving to be the easiest of the remaining four elements and he could perform some of the lower level techniques. His manipulation of the water element was coming along at a steady pace having already mastered the basic techniques required however the two elements proving to be the most difficult were fire and lightning. His development with the two particular elements was very slow and he was finding it extremely hard to apply the basics of manipulation to them.
His kenjutsu training was extremely successful especially after the addition of Sasuke as his training partner. The Uchiha pushed Naruto to his limits making him work twice as hard to keep up with him since he was being affected by the gravity seal. Although becoming more accustomed to the pull on his body, there was still a long way to go before he would be able to fully utilise his skills whilst under the affect of the seal. However having the sharingan user as his partner was also quite dangerous as he was becoming suspicious of why Naruto had to try so hard yet still fail to put up much of a threat as the Kyuubi vessel had not told him about his forbidden training method. Genma had taught him well on how to use swords in combat showing him the ideal distances and motions to deal the most devastating affect. The jounin was also going to teach him how to perform the shadow dance techniques once he was far enough in his skills.
Having deactivated his seal and going through his customary relaxation he was currently writing up the required seal in order to perform the Yondaime’s most treasured jutsu. He had gone to the weapons shop earlier on and received the finished kunais which looked perfect and showed the quality of craftsmanship. However before moving on to using the kunai to perform the technique he would have to understand the mechanics of the seal used. The seal was a vital factor in the success of the technique as it summoned its user. A blank scroll was in front of Naruto as he delicately drew the intricate seal pattern making sure not to make any mistakes. A high risk was involved as the technique granted the user control over space and time through the use of summoning so he could instantly appear wherever the seal was placed. However he had to be careful in making sure that he didn’t mess up whilst drawing as the consequences would be fatal. He finished the seal before imprinting his insignia on it with his blood.
Since he wasn’t meant to be training on the days he had to rest Naruto decided he would prepare the seals for when he would start learning the Hiraishin No Jutsu. He continued drawing the seals as the morning was slowly coming to an end. Finally finishing he gathered his scrolls deciding to drop them off home before going to his favourite ramen stand.
However, before he left his training ground a glimpse of pink caught his attention. He looked towards the cherry tree in the distance. Walking towards it he realised that unlike the rest of the trees which had lost all their luscious nature, it was still blossoming as the leaves gave off a vibrant pink. He looked towards the leaves being reminded of his dance three days earlier. The party had been blissful and Naruto was ultimately glad that he had attended. However his mind focused on his childhood crush. They had gotten closer than they had ever been. He was sure that they might’ve ended up kissing if they had not been interrupted. But the more he thought about it, he realised that this wasn’t what he wanted to happen. Growing closer to Sakura now was something he couldn’t afford because of his impending death. It would serve to provide them both with unneeded sorrow. He gave out a sad sigh, ‘Why now?’
“That’s enough for now.” The Hokage addressed her student with a raised a hand. “We should get some rest before continuing.”
Sakura panting from her strict training regiment quickly nodded, “Hai, Tsunade-shisou.”
The medic-nins reached for their water replenishing themselves with much needed refreshment. The Godaime feeling a little tired but not as much as the younger medic made her way over to nearby bench before sitting down. Sakura following her teacher sat next to her before slowly drifting to her thoughts. She trained with the Hokage improving her combat and medical skills whenever her team didn’t go on missions. As of late the atmosphere whilst on missions was awkward as Kakashi had began to arrive later than usual and wasn’t as focused on the objective at hand. She could see that he was hiding something and would often read his orange book a lot more than he would regularly.
Apart from training and completing her missions with her team, her mind focused on the hyperactive ninja especially after their dance at the party. She had enjoyed the touch of his skin and the warm feeling whilst in his arms. Her heart leapt every time she thought about their intimate dance now understanding why Ino kept teasing her about her feelings. She hadn’t seen the blonde since the dance and was herself dreading meeting him again as she was unsure of what to say. The strength of feelings she was feeling were far beyond simple attraction, they were a lot deeper and she was confused as to what to make of them.
Tsunade aware of the uncomfortable presence of her apprentice voiced her question, “Is something the matter?”
Sakura sighed before responding, “I’m not sure…”
Tsunade raised an eyebrow at the unusual answer, “I’ll take that as a yes.” The older woman of the two averted her gaze from the kunoichi opting to stare at the demolished training grounds.
“Tsunade-shisou…” She paused as her mentor turned to look at her, “Does a person know…when they’re in love?”
Her question came as an initial surprise to Tsunade but she understood the complexity of feelings she must be experiencing. She had fallen for the hyperactive ninja without even realising it and she was coming to terms with her feelings after the dance. However since it was so unexpected she didn’t know what to do. The gambling Hokage chose her words carefully as she was now one of three people who knew about Naruto’s condition and didn’t believe it was her place to tell the pink haired medic. “A person never knows when they fall in love…” She remembered her lover, “It’s a feeling that builds up over time…” A smile was across her face before she continued, “The only way to understand your feelings is to confront them.”
Sakura stared into the hard ground with her emerald eyes absorbing her teacher’s words, “What if you are afraid?”
Tsunade laughed at her apprentice causing the kunoichi to look up in confusion, “You really like him don’t you?”
Sakura understanding her accusation reddened a bit before muttering her answer, “Yeah.”
The Godaime adopted a more serious tone of voice before continuing. She knew that Sakura would have to figure out her feelings as Naruto didn’t have much time. The Hokage understood that allowing the two shinobi to become close now would result in an even deepened feeling of sadness when the time for departure came, so she chose her words carefully when she began to address her apprentice, “The life of a shinobi is perilous…make use of the time that you have.” Her answer applied to all ninja however she was specifically talking about Naruto’s upcoming death not that the pink haired medic knew.
Sakura nodded at the older woman, the clearness of her decision reflected in her bright green eyes.
Naruto finished his eighth bowl of ramen having finally satisfied his hunger to its fullest degree. He observed Teuchi and his daughter Akane work before placing his money on the counter and leaving. It was now in the middle of the afternoon and he didn’t have much left to do. Deciding that letting his muscles rest would be the best course of action he headed in the direction of his home. He was satisfied with the rate at which his training was progressing fully confident that he would be capable of defeating the Akatsuki soon. He was broken from his thoughts as he heard someone walking up behind him.
“Naruto...” The familiar voice sent a twinge to his heart both of happiness and sadness. He turned to face the apprentice of the Hokage.
He adopted his mask rather quickly attempting to hide the confusion of feelings brewing within him, “Sakura-chan.”
The kunoichi nodded whilst falling in pace with him. The two shared an awkward silence well aware of their last encounter. Naruto, trying not to think too much, quickly started a conversation, “So how are the missions lately?”
Sakura continued walking, her eyes directed in front of her, “Simple, we’re not allowed to leave the village so most of them are lending a hand with handing out assignments or filling in at the academy. Lately though we’ve been asked to help with the preparations of the chuunin exams since they’re going to be starting in another 2 weeks.”
Naruto laughed, “Sasuke’s probably not happy with such missions. As for Kakashi-sensei…well he probably doesn’t care.” Sakura’s mood changed upon the mention of their sensei, something Naruto picked up on.
“Kakashi-sensei…has been weird lately.” Naruto’s curiosity was peaked with her intriguing words. “He seems distracted…ever since the party.”
The leaf-nin began to contemplate what could have caused a change in behaviour for their usually undeterred sensei. He was interrupted by Sakura.
“Naruto…” He turned to look at the older girl whose hair was moving slightly from the soft blow of the wind. Sakura hesitated for a moment not sure how to ask him, “Um…would you like to get together some time?”
Naruto’s expression displayed his confusion, “Nani? We just had a party.”
Sakura became irritated of his obliviousness as it was hard enough for her to ask in the first place, “Baka! I meant just the two of us!” She began blushing realising what she had just shouted at him.
Naruto was shocked beyond comprehension. He didn’t think the kunoichi would ever willingly ask to go out with him. They had recently gone to eat together on a couple of occasions however it was always him who asked and even then it was just an outing of friends. The blonde wasn’t sure of what to do. He didn’t want to get too close to the girl at this time knowing it wasn’t the brightest idea since he had been deliberately trying to avoid being with his friends as much as possible without giving them a reason for suspicion. Knowing of Sakura’s high intelligence, he was sure that she would pick on something being wrong if he refused, “Yeah…sure.” Looking towards the kunoichi he could see the lightest tint of red grace her soft cheeks.
Sakura happy with his answer quickly answered, “Pick me up in two days at 7.” She gave him a smile before parting ways in the direction of her house. Naruto looking at her leave knew he would probably come to regret his answer.
A roar of thunder was heard from the sky above as darkened clouds began to gather preparing for a downpour. Not paying attention to the changing weather his mind focused on his jounin sensei. The last time he had seen him was when they were talking at the balcony, trying to understand the reason for Kakashi’s strange behaviour, his eyes widened in realisation remembering the Godaime as the last person to have talked to him on the day of the party. ‘Did she?’
Forsaking his original plan of returning home he took off to search for the masked pervert ignoring the droplets of rain which began to soak his golden hair.
Zetsu threw the beaten form of the jinchuuriki across the hard surface of the floor. His body was relatively unharmed however he had sustained a few bruises at the hands of the container of the Schichibi. Observing the bloody figure in front of him, he showed no remorse for his actions.
He had left the jinchuuriki alive but just enough so that the extraction process would be successful. The battle had gone relatively easy for the green haired Akatsuki member until his target began to harness the power of his bijuu. Underestimating his opponent’s abilities even if it was for a mere couple of seconds had resulted in him being caught in one of his techniques. Luckily the technique did not carry the full force of the bijuu so it didn’t break his defence.
The battleground for their encounter was now in ruins. The ground had been ripped open leaving several craters scattered and the nearby forest had also been extinguished. The Schichibi granted its container control over the element of earth giving him an advantage in using the land for his techniques. However since Zetsu was adept at using his surroundings for cover and his own attacks, he comfortably walked away with the victory.
The Akatsuki member picked the jinchuuriki up via his hair preparing to return to the base for the extraction.
Naruto had looked in numerous places over Konoha where his jounin sensei could have been. Having not found him anywhere he travelled to the only other location he could think of, Team 7’s former training ground. The rain continued to pour as his clothes had now been soaked entirely leaving a cold feeling running through his body.
Surely enough he could see Kakashi standing next to the memorial stone staring intently at the names carved on its surface. Walking forwards he reached the log to which he had been tied to when Kakashi had given them the bell test.
The jounin was standing drenched, his hair flattened from the rain and now partially covering his face. The blonde looked at his sensei having never seen him like this before. He spoke with a calm clear voice, “You know, huh?”
He awaited a response from the older ninja however it didn’t come knowing his silence meant a yes. He continued staring at his sensei who had his back turned due to facing the memorial stone. The weather had not relinquished its brutality in throwing the cold droplets of water from the black clouds above. Naruto sighed; knowing that he should’ve told the jounin about his condition as he felt a wave of guilt pass through him.
Kakashi spoke in soft monotonous voice, “The day I became a jounin…” The masked shinobi paused as his student looked towards him, “I lead my first mission as a leader of a team.” Naruto listened attentively to his words.
“I didn’t understand what it meant to have friends…” His sorrow filled eye continued staring at the names carved on the monument. “I never thought much of my team mates…and prioritised the mission above everything else.”
Naruto listened carefully noticing the sadness in his teacher’s words. He had never heard his sensei talk about his past and never knew anything about it himself. “One of my team mates was captured…” The jounin sighed feeling angry with his older self, “I was prepared to abandon her…but I was stopped by the one person I looked down upon as a weak shinobi…”
“Whoever breaks the rules is trash…but whoever abandons their friends is worse than trash.” Naruto listened to Kakashi’s words. That had been the first thing he had learnt from the jounin and fully took to his heart.
The ex-Anbu continued, “Those words that he said to me have stayed with me since...we managed to get our other team mate back but I lost my eye in the process,” Kakashi’s vision blurred as he let a tear escape his drooped eye quickly mixing with the wetness of his mask, “But before we could get to safety…we were attacked a final time…he saved my life…at the cost of his own,” The tears continued rolling from his one exposed eye, “His dying gift to me was his sharingan…”
Naruto’s eyes widened as he finally understood where Kakashi had received his sharingan but he was quickly filled with sorrow upon hearing of the white haired jounins past, “That day I finally understood what it meant to have a friend…after everything I had said to him…he gave his life for me…I lost everything precious to me.”
A few minutes of silence passed as the two ninjas stood. The sky roared as the sound of thunder impacted sending a chilling feeling of remorse through Naruto’s spine.
Kakashi broke the silence, “The day I finally took a genin team…I finally thought that I would be able to make up for my past mistakes by raising shinobis who understood the importance of friendship.”
A smile was across Kakashi’s face as he remembered the bell test, “I finally found people that were important to me again…” He sighed before turning to face the genin, his voice began to break, “…I’m sorry I have failed you…If I could have helped you…this wouldn’t have happened.”
Naruto, whose eyes had, began to water only being hidden by the rain, walked forwards until he was standing next to his sensei. “You didn’t fail me Kakashi-sensei…” He looked at the older ninja with a smile, “You never have…”
The jinchuuriki stared at the memorial stone, “Every ninja experiences sorrow…” He remembered the heartbreaking expression of Haku, “…every ninja has a past that they want to forget,” Sasuke’s visage flashed through his mind, “…and everyone makes mistakes.”
Kakashi listened to his student convey wisdom he would’ve never thought he had, “The past may define who we were…but it is the present which shapes who we will become…”
The rain calmed as the Kyuubi container continued, “When I die…I don’t want you to stay like this…” Kakashi looked at his student with a mixture of surprise and grief.
Naruto’s eyes showed his resolve, “Death is a part of life…you don’t want to fail me?” Kakashi looked at his student with curiosity, “Then instead of living in the past…live for the future…” Turning towards Kakashi he had a genuine smile across his countenance.
Kakashi looked into the eyes of the younger ninja, who even after everything that had occurred still held his determination and refused to give into misery. A smile graced his face, finally for the first time in three days a sense of peace entered his heart.

Chapter 11: Shattered Heart
The sun had set leaving the dark sky. Through the relatively quiet streets Naruto walked towards his destination in order to pick up Sakura for their date. He was tired from a hard day of training but still had enough energy remaining. His mind was in haywire with conflicting thoughts. He wanted to enjoy this time as he knew that he wouldn’t get such chances often however he also knew that he couldn’t let this outing get out of control so had to make sure that nothing happened. He was clothed in dark red trousers with a tight fitting long sleeved black top. He wasn’t wearing a jacket as it was a warm atmosphere.
Preoccupied with his thoughts he had arrived at Sakura’s house quickly. Swallowing a lump in his throat and giving out a sigh he knocked on the door. Waiting for a few minutes he could hear someone approaching the door from the other side before opening it. Trying his hardest to stop his eyes falling out of their sockets, he failed to recognise his hanging mouth. Sakura stood in front of him attired in an extravagant dark blue kimono with patterns of light pink cherry blossoms. His attention was drawn to the sparkling earrings she was wearing. He had never seen her wear them before as such accessories were a distraction and a hazard for kunoichis.
Sakura had a knowing smile across her face, “That must mean I look really good.”
The jinchuuriki coughed realising his momentary stupor, “Heh heh…yeah you do.”
Sakura couldn’t help but rage with happiness inside. ‘Hell Yeah!’ Quickly coming out of her thoughts she addressed the shinobi in front of her, “So, where would you like to go first?”
Naruto’s stomach rumbled; he hadn’t eaten during the day preserving his humongous appetite for the evening, “How about we eat?”
The medic-nin stepped outside closing the door behind her. The two began to walk embarking on their date. Sakura’s thoughts were concentrated solely on her feelings for the leaf-nin next to her. They continued walking leaving the residential district and arriving in the more lit up area of Konoha. Naruto stared at the dazzling display of lights not noticing the running flashes of green approaching him and Sakura.
“Yosh! These two young shinobi are truly enjoying the springtime of youth!” Gai finished his loud speech with a thumbs up and a blinding smile.
The eccentric volume startled Naruto who wasn’t prepared for such an outburst. His attention was quickly directed towards the energetic blue beast of Konoha’s student, who was standing with fire burning in his eyes. “Naruto-kun! I, the beautiful green beast of Konoha, challenge you for Sakura-chan’s heart.”
Sakura’s eyes widened as Naruto sweat dropped, “Nani?”
Sakura laughed nervously slowly inching closer to the blonde. Lee continued in a determined tone, “I have vowed to win Sa…” The green spandex clad youth was stopped from finishing as a hand clasped itself around his mouth.
Ten-Ten stood behind Lee with a firm grasp across his animated mouth. Neji slowly walked up behind his team mates obviously embarrassed by the two taijutsu specialist’s actions. “Good to see you Naruto, Sakura-san.”
Naruto and Sakura nodded acknowledging his greeting. Ten-Ten finally relinquished her hold on Lee. Looking towards the young couple she bowed before speaking, “Sorry about Lee.”
Naruto scratched the back of his head, “It’s alright…I think.”
The unfathomable Gai looked in the direction of Naruto, “Yosh! You are finally embracing the blazing yet kind fire of your youth!”
Naruto had a dumbfounded expression not fully comprehending the meaning of his words. His thoughts corresponded with Sakura who was even more perplexed, ‘Shannaro! What the hell does that even mean?’
Lee had tears brimming in his eyes as Gai exclaimed his passionate words, “Gai-sensei, there is none more youthful than you!”
Maito Gai turned towards the younger taijutsu specialist and gave him his trademark smile, “Of course, my youthful student. Now come, we must continue with our energetic laps around the wondrous beauty that is Konoha!”
Naruto and Sakura stared as the green spandex wearing males ran down the street, not entirely sure of what had transpired in front of them. Neji followed slowly with an annoyed look.
“Well, I should leave you to your…um…anyways…” Ten-Ten laughed before waving and following her team mates.
Naruto inwardly smiled at his friends antics; he was going to miss all this when the time came. He led Sakura to a high-class restaurant knowing that going to eat at a ramen stand wasn’t the greatest of ideas especially since she had spent time preparing herself. Walking into the reasonably large building they came upon one of the employees, Naruto addressed the tuxedo wearing gentleman, “We’d like a table for two.”
The short man recognised Sakura who was the apprentice of the Hokage, clearing his throat, he quickly replied, “Of course. Right this way young sir, madam.” Giving the two shinobi a courteous bow, he took them to their table before handing them menus.
Sakura glanced at Naruto who was intently focused on his menu and the list of food, no doubt trying to find his favourite dish of ramen. She was glad that he had taken her to a fine restaurant which meant he had thought about the date. She gave a small chuckle as she realised the genin would be complaining about the state of his ‘Gama-chan’ after a few days because of the amount of money he would be paying on their date.
She picked up her menu to begin browsing but saw Naruto staring at her awkwardly, “What? Do I look that nice?” A smile appeared across her face as she spoke.
Naruto shook his head receiving a raised eyebrow from Sakura, “No…it’s not that…it’s…”
Sakura seethed inside at what he had said, interrupting him from finishing, “Baka! What’s that supposed to mean?”
Naruto began to sweat noticing the unfortunate misuse of his words, “Gomen Sakura-chan. I didn’t mean it like that…”
The pink haired medic paid no attention to his rambling instead scouring through her menu. The blonde acknowledging his failing attempts at reconciliation sighed before resuming looking through his own menu. The minutes passed by in silence as they finally ordered their food. Sakura ordered kaiseki, a traditional delicacy made with the rarest variety of ingredients. The jinchuuriki ordered his usual miso ramen awaiting his meal with eagerness. Looking back at the beauty in front of him, he decided to try and lighten up the discomfited atmosphere. “So…uh Sakura-chan how was your day?”
Sakura slightly happy with his attempts for trying to make for his mistake responded, but made sure she wasn’t too reactive so he didn’t think that he was off the hook already, “Fine.” She could visibly see her one word answer to Naruto had the desired effect.
Their meal arrived and the two ate in silence for the majority of the duration with Naruto making his unique jokes to try and brighten Sakura’s mood. His attempts ultimately failed in his eyes whereas the pink haired kunoichi was enjoying his desperate frame of mind at trying to make her laugh feeling he was cute when in such a situation. Finishing their meal Naruto left the payment before following Sakura outside.
“Sakura-chan…I really didn’t mean it. You look great. Seriously I haven’t seen anyone looking better.” Naruto walked behind Sakura who was a few feet ahead of him.
Sakura stopped as she blushed from the leaf-nin’s comment, only hidden due to the direction she was facing. Regaining her composure she turned to face him, “Well how are you going to make up for it?”
Naruto began thinking with his hand on his chin as the minutes flew by. Sakura became irritated at the lengthy process, ‘Shannaro! Does it really take you that long?’
A light bulb lit up in Naruto’s mind as he thought of a brilliant idea. Rushing towards Sakura, startling her a little, he grabbed her hand and ran towards their destination. A warm feeling pulsed through Sakura at the unanticipated contact. She enjoyed the familiar feeling and continued following the energetic blonde.
Arriving in front of the movie theatre, Naruto felt a wave of fear rush through him as he saw the poster for the latest Icha Icha Paradise movie. He turned towards Sakura who was cracking her knuckles and had a menacing look in her eyes. “This is your idea?”
Naruto began to slowly back away from the volatile kunoichi, “Wait…I thought the latest movie Princess Koyuki made was being shown.” He began to worry noticing the lack of effect from his words.
“What’s going on here?” Kakashi looked at his students with a keen eye. Observing their attire and the situation of them being together, he drew the right conclusion swiftly. ‘So they’re finally dating.’
Naruto sighed in relief at seeing his sensei. Kakashi was feeling a lot better after his talk with the genin two days prior. He was at the theatre to see the adaptation of his favourite novel. A sinister yet amusing plan came to his mind as he bought three tickets. Walking forwards he grabbed his students, dragging them into the screening room against their will.
Naruto’s eyes widened as he began to curse his luck and dread meeting the masked pervert. The two young shinobi were seated in front of Kakashi. The masked jounin had a smirk across his face as he saw the uncomfortable couple. Naruto, who was now sweating profusely, took a glance at Sakura to his right. Noticing her abnormal demeanour he sighed knowing she wouldn’t punch him anytime soon. Standing from his seat in order to leave he was stopped as Kakashi had a hand on his shoulder and made him sit back down. “What’s the rush Naruto? The movie hasn’t even started yet.”
Sakura fidgeted uneasily as the movie began to start. Her anger for Naruto was now displaced and she was more focused on the fact that she was about to watch a perverted movie. ‘Shannaro! I will have my revenge Kakashi-sensei!’
She blushed uncontrollably as the movie got underway. The intimate scenes were making her extremely uncomfortable as she kept having flashes of Naruto through her mind in intriguing positions to say the least. Naruto wasn’t fairing very well either as a small trickle blood escaped his nose. He knew of the perverted nature of Jiraiya’s novels and had even read some of them. However reading the erotic scenes and experiencing them being performed, whilst you were with a girl you were highly attracted to, were very different situations. Trying to flush away the impure thoughts of Sakura rushing through his mind constantly, he head butted the seat in front of him.
Kakashi was trying to refrain himself from laughing as he concentrated more on the actions of the young shinobi couple rather than the mature movie he initially came to view. He was enjoying the humorous display and was beginning to wonder whether this was becoming too much for them as he saw Naruto head butt the seat in front of him hardly. They were old enough to understand about the intimate moments between a man and a woman however he knew that they weren’t expecting to see such scenes their first date.
Sakura, beginning to lose herself to her implicit thoughts, rose from her position and grabbed Naruto running out of the theatre. Kakashi merely looked at the two leave, not trying to stop them, deciding that they had endured enough. He smiled hoping they wouldn’t refrain from anything before continuing to watch the Icha Icha Paradise movie that was halfway through its course.
Sakura and Naruto had finally left the theatre and the kunoichi let go of the Kyuubi containers hand as quickly as possible. Her thoughts were racing and she sighed out of relief, being free from the perverted torture that was Icha Icha Paradise.
Naruto wiped the blood from his nose and looked at Sakura but quickly turned away as more impure thoughts corrupted his mind. Coughing rather loudly he addressed the gorgeous yet scary 16 year old; “We should be on our way.”
Sakura nodded and walked beside Naruto as they travelled through one of Konoha’s stunning parks. Coming close to a small lake Naruto took a seat on the soft grass below. Tsunade’s apprentice sat down next to him enjoying the view of the majestic river sparkling in front of their eyes.
The stars had at last come out, glittering as vibrantly as ever, adding to the already romantic and peaceful atmosphere. Naruto had a heart warming smile across his face and a feeling of tranquillity within himself. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
Sakura was amazed at where Naruto had led them. Due to the genin’s usual hyperactive behaviour and loudness, she never knew that he enjoyed such serene things. Smiling softly she scooted closer to Naruto and placed her head on his shoulder before replying, “Yeah.”
Naruto was taken aback by the suddenness of Sakura’s action and knew that he had to be careful as to not let anything happen. A few minutes passed as a smile graced his whiskered face, “I’ve never seen you so calm before. You’re normally always…different.”
Sakura lifted her head from his shoulder, “Baka! Don’t you like me when I’m like this?”
Naruto stood up walking closer towards the water. Looking over the calm water he answered, “I like you however you are.”
Sakura smiled as she heard his words, a comforting feeling entering her stomach. Kicking off his sandals Naruto walked onto the lake keeping himself afloat with his chakra. A soothing feeling entered his body as the initial chilliness left upon his bare feet touching the water. He walked forwards as the water underneath him swayed. The kunochi gazed at Naruto who seemed so peaceful yet so sad in his movements. She was broken from her thoughts as the Uzumaki spoke, “Try it Sakura.”
Rising from her location on the ground, she walked towards the water and took off her own sandals. She placed her foot onto the water as an icy feeling entered her body making her shiver. Naruto chuckled as he saw her. Sakura walked forward trying to get accustomed to the coldness. Walking a few more steps she realised that it was pleasant to walk on the water as her skin enjoyed the sensation. She made her way over to where Naruto was standing.
The blonde had managed to make it into the middle of the lake and was standing calmly as he stared at the sky above. Sakura jumped back as she felt something wriggle underneath her feet. “What was that?”
Naruto diverting his attention to his date laughed as he saw her jump back with her eyes racing at the water below. Sakura glared at Naruto, “Baka! What’s so funny?”
“Nothing to worry about, it was probably just a fish.”
Sakura embarrassed from her over weariness quickly reddened, “Oh…”
Walking towards the hyperactive ninja she stood in front of him before he suddenly fell through into the water. Losing sight of his figure, a worried expression appeared across her pretty face. “Naruto...” She bent down before looking more clearly into the water, “Naruto, are you alright.” The desperation was evident in her voice as she attempted to locate the jinchuuriki.
Being too immersed in the situation she failed to recognise a set of hands slowly appear from the water below and wrap themselves around her ankles. Sakura snapped out of her search as she felt something clasp her ankles however she was too late to act as she was pulled into the water below.
The water completely submerged her body sending an overwhelming cold shudder throughout her. She quickly rose from the water and began to shiver. Her hair was drenched as were her clothes. Droplets of water surrounded her face. However she instantly became angry as she realised what had just happened, “Naruto! I’m going to beat you senseless.”
The kunoichi turned around to face the blonde who was equally soaked with water. His golden hair was flattened from its drenched state and his clothes were dripping; he laughed, “Come on it’s not that bad, is it?”
Shivering from the cold, Sakura walked forward before hugging Naruto. She wrapped her arms around his waist in an attempt to become warm. The tight hug sent Naruto into confusion. He was enjoying the feeling but was afraid of the closeness at the same time. The chest height water completely covered their bodies as Naruto slowly placed his arms around Sakura returning the hug.
Staying stationary for a few moments their bodies started to become warm feeding off each other’s heat. Sakura eyes were closed as she leaned her head on his shoulder. A mystifying feeling ran throughout her body making her feel exceedingly pleasant. She spoke in a soft voice, “Arigatou…Naruto.”
Sakura leaned backwards escaping his embrace. She looked at the shinobi in front of her as the water slowly trickled from his hair down his handsome face. Mesmerized by his enchanting cerulean eyes, she felt comfort at the peacefulness within them. ‘I finally understand.’ She smiled as she began to lean in towards his face.
Naruto gazed into the kunoichi’s emerald eyes as he slowly became captivated by her beauty. ‘Everything was happening so perfectly…’ He sighed sadly inside, ‘But at the wrong time…’ He could feel Sakura’s refreshing breath on his lips before he turned his face to the side.
Sakura’s kiss landed on his wet cheek. Her face had a befuddled expression as she didn’t understand. She looked at the blonde who was now staring at the serene water. “What’s wrong Naruto?”
Naruto’s eyes revealed the sadness within them as he replied softly, “I’m sorry Sakura-chan…I can’t do this.”
He turned to leave but was stopped as Sakura grabbed his hand. “Why…”
Naruto’s feelings were in turmoil as he contemplated on telling her the truth. He desperately tried to find the right words but couldn’t bring himself to tell her. Releasing his hand from her grasp a tear escaped his eye as he left.
Sakura gazed at the genin as he walked away from her. The water felt a lot colder as she was left in shock. The stars shimmered less and the lake appeared dark. A tear escaped her green eye falling into the water below with a resonating sound as her heart shattered on the inside.

Chapter 12: Anticipated Advent
Sighing Naruto stared at the seal in front of him. Trying to think of what he was doing wrong he couldn’t find a reasonable solution. He had completed the third week of his training and was sitting in his training ground attempting to understand how he could perform the Hiraishin No Jutsu as he had been unsuccessful throughout the week. Practicing the technique for the whole week had not gotten him further than he was when he started. At the moment he wasn’t using the special kunais since he decided that he would have to, first, be able to perform the technique whilst the seal was stationary. He had pinned a seal on one of the many trees and had attempted to summon himself to the seal. However the simple sounding process was a lot more complicated than he initially thought.
Fortunately, his training as a whole was progressing well; he had now finished learning all the techniques within the Futon scroll and was close to completing the Doton and Suiton scrolls. His development with the Raiton and Katon techniques had been steadily improving once he figured out how to manipulate the two elements. He was sure that he would finish learning all the techniques inscribed within the scrolls over the next week.
He fell back from his seated position so that he was lying down on the grass. Staring at the clear blue sky, he felt some comfort enter him which was infrequent since his date. The sound of the waterfall was soothing to his ears as he closed his eyes to relax. Over the past few days, his concentration had dwindled since he found himself constantly being drawn to his thoughts of Sakura. He had not been in contact with the medic-nin since their date, afraid of meeting her. He believed it was better to avoid her for the time being since he had already hurt her however he was hoping that she wasn’t too angry with him.
Brushing away the painful thoughts, his mind focused on the significance of this day. It had been 16 years ago today that the Kyuubi had attacked Konoha and ended up sealed within him. The anniversary of Kyuubi’s defeat had always reminded him of his loneliness, and the reason why once he was told of the demon fox being inside him. Usually he would draw determination from this occasion strengthening his resolve to become Hokage. He inwardly smiled dejectedly at the fact he didn’t know what to think, as he wasn’t definitely going to become the leader of Konoha now.
He was interrupted from his thoughts as he felt a familiar presence land a few feet away from him. A smile graced his visage as he opened his eyes to see a figure looming over him, “After I’m out there working hard in order to find out about Akatsuki, I come back to see you lying around, doing nothing.” The large white haired man sat down next to the jinchuuriki.
Naruto rose to a seated position and brushed away the grass from the back of his blonde hair, “The seals not activated.”
Jiraiya nodded understanding that he was taking his required rest from the seal training, “That means you’ve been capable of having the seal activated over the past two weeks while I’ve been gone.”
Naruto laughed proudly, “Yeah, it hasn’t been that hard.” He ended by folding his arms and a smile across his whiskered face.
The perverted hermit turned to his student before slapping him across the back of his head, “Don’t become over confident gaki, it’s most likely due to the Kyuubi’s healing abilities that you’re not as fatigued as a normal person would be.”
The leaf-nin rubbed the now sore spot on his head before replying, “There’s no need to slap me over it, Ero-sennin.”
Jiraiya shook his head, “Here I was hoping you would have developed some respect while I was gone.” He sighed over dramatically, “Guess I was wishing for too much.”
Naruto laughed as they proceeded to sit in silence enjoying the bright day with the sun shining spectacularly. “So…did you meet with your informant?”
Jiraiya was sitting cross legged with his chin resting on his hands, “No…but he left me some information.”
Naruto looked at the legendary sannin waiting for him to continue, “And?”
Jiraiya coughed, “Right. Well from what it seems, all the members of Akatsuki are currently out hunting down the other bijuus. Since the death of Itachi and Kisame, they have delayed trying to capture you.”
The blonde absorbed the information, “I see.”
The Icha Icha author continued speaking, “Apparently their plan at the moment is to infiltrate Konoha whilst the chuunin exams are occurring.”
Naruto’s eyes widened, “Nani? But they’re starting next week.”
Jiraiya shook his head waving away the jinchuuriki’s worry, “They will wait until the finals. Infiltrating Konoha at the beginning of the chuunin exams wouldn’t be a wise decision on their part as the shinobi populace isn’t as occupied as it would be during the final matches.”
Naruto, slightly embarrassed from his outburst, reddened a bit, “Oh…”
The frog hermit still had a serious demeanour, “Whilst the finals are occurring this time, there will be extra preparations as the Kazekage will be making an appearance alongside the several feudal lords.”
Naruto nodded in understanding, “Gaara…”
Jiraiya rose and brushed off the dirt from his clothes, “I need to see how far you have grown. Next week, it will have been a month since you have undertook this training, as a result I m going to test your abilities whilst the seal is inactive.”
Naruto understood his sensei’s reasoning. He rose from his position before standing next to his mentor. “I’ll make sure I’m ready…I plan on beating you.”
Jiraiya laughed before his face turned solemn, he waited for a few minutes before addressing the younger shinobi to his side, “Naruto…”
Naruto noted his sudden change in mood, “Yeah?”
Jiraiya stood still in an uncomfortable silence before speaking, “About that jutsu…”
The hyperactive ninja removed his jacket slowly prior to showing his left forearm to the older ninja. Jiraiya looked at his defined forearm but his attention was solely on the complicated pattern that was entrenched upon his skin. Naruto spoke, “It’s still there…”
Jiraiya nodded before speaking, “Have you talked to Kyuubi about this since you found out about…your condition?”
Naruto put his jacket back on, “No…I thought everything was alright since it hasn’t disappeared. Now that you mention it, I probably should.”
Jiraiya looked away from the genin, instead staring at the sun which was at the highest point in the sky, he sighed before continuing “I know that I can’t forbid you from using it now. But try not to utilize it unless you absolutely have to.”
Naruto noticed the genuine request from the sannin, “I understand…Jiraiya-sensei.”
The author of the infamous Icha Icha series had a smile on his mature face, “Hopefully, after this training, you won’t have the need for it.” He turned to leave, “Guessing from my assessment, you have 5 weeks left until Akatsuki arrives. Even if I’m wrong and they come sooner than expected…we’re here to help.” The frog hermit made his leave in order to inform the Godaime of his discoveries.
Naruto stared after his teacher who had now left the training ground. His eyes held fortitude, ‘This is something that I have to do with my own strength…I can’t rely on others…not this time.’
Deidara and Tobi were situated in the mountains of the country of Lightning having finally tracked their designated target. The trek to the high peaks of the Lightning country had gone trouble free as the blonde Akatsuki member used his capability of flying to transport himself and his partner to encounter the Rokubi. The S-class criminal found himself amidst a thunderstorm as he dodged the lightning bolts shooting from the sky.
Looking towards his clumsy partner he found him confronting the wild bijuu they had to capture. Tobi leapt aside as the aggressive Rokubi flew past him in a flash of tremendous power which would have injured him severely. The appearance of the bijuu was intimidating and fit its status as the master of lightning. Its yellow fur stood on end as its six tails looked dangerously like thunderbolts. It snarled viciously as it opened its mouth.
Deidara observed closely trying to find a weakness that he could exploit as a sizzling sound protruded from the weasel like creature’s mouth. Tobi took a step back as he realised what the 6 tailed demon was about to execute, “Eh?”
The orange mask wearing criminal jumped out of the way as a ball of sparkling lightning impacted on the ground where he was previously standing, resulting in a large explosion. Quickly regaining his fighting stance he looked at the Rokubi which had once again begun to charge its deadly manoeuvre. Deciding against attacking him head on, the black haired man ran across the rugged terrain as consecutive attacks were shot at him. Looking towards his comrade, who was busy avoiding various lightning bolts from the sky, he screamed “WHY WON’T YOU HELP ME?”
Deidara heard the newest member of their organization’s plea of help. Turning around in the air on his transport, he rushed towards the Rokubi which was obsessed with attacking Tobi. Quickly forming one of his explosive artworks; he pushed some chakra into it adding to its destructive nature before launching it at the preoccupied bijuu. It connected as the formidable creature wailed in pain, “The most powerful force is art, yeah.”
The Akatsuki members prepared to capture the Rokubi as they launched their final attack.
Naruto passed through the streets of Konoha deeply engaged in his thoughts whilst holding both his hands behind his head. He recognised the mournful atmosphere as people were obviously remembering the fateful day from 16 years ago.
“Oi, Naruto!” The leaf-nin snapped out of his thoughts as he turned to face the direction from which he heard his name being called.
“Iruka-sensei?” His eyes widened as he saw the chuunin run up to him before stopping a few feet away from him.
The academy teacher looked at the younger ninja, “I’ve been looking for you all day. Where have you been?”
“In Konoha.” His simple response didn’t satisfy Iruka’s question.
“Baka! That’s not what I meant.” He crossed his arms across his chest, “Anyways, come on, I’ll treat you to some ramen.”
Naruto instantly smiled upon hearing of ramen, “Heh heh. Don’t complain when I eat too much.”
Iruka laughed at the genin, “Of course not. This is a special occasion.”
Naruto’s face displayed his curiosity as well as his confusion at the older mans statement, “It is?”
Iruka grabbed the boy in a headlock before ruffling his hair, “Eh? Don’t tell me you don’t know. Baka, you turned 16 today.” He let go of the younger boy.
Naruto straightened with a large smile plastered across his whiskered face as well as a sense of gratification towards the academy teacher. He was happy that Iruka had remembered such an occasion and decided to treat him even though his parents had died in the Kyuubi attack.
Naruto looked up to Iruka as a father since he had been the only person apart from the Hokage to truly understand him when he was alone during his childhood. He owed the academy teacher a lot more than the older man knew due to the fact that he had ultimately been the main factor in stopping Naruto from breaking. Being with him made him forget his recent troubles as he began to appreciate the company, “Arigatou…Iruka-sensei but you don’t have to do this.”
Iruka looked towards the younger boy whom he considered as the only family he had left. He laughed embarrassedly at the unusual characteristics the blonde was displaying; rubbing his scarred nose he spoke, “Don’t worry about it, I want to. I haven’t seen you since you left the hospital. You’re hard to find lately.”
Naruto scratched the back of his head nervously, “Well, I’ve been busy.”
Iruka grinned mischievously, “I know.” Naruto turned to the chuunin with a puzzled face, “I heard about the dance. Looks like she’s finally recognising you, eh?” He slapped the jinchuuriki’s back in a friendly manner.
Naruto grimaced upon being reminded, as his mind instantly reverted to thoughts of the pink haired girl and his last encounter with her, “Yeah…she is.”
Iruka raised an eyebrow as he noticed the solemn mood of the Uzumaki which he found abnormal since he thought that he would be jumping for joy. Deciding not to pry any further, he walked in silence until reaching Ichiraku’s Ramen.
During Naruto’s spree of eating, his demeanour returned to normal as he talked with the academy teacher. They caught up with each other as Naruto remained careful of not revealing too many details of what he was doing. Iruka stood in shock as he nearly emptied his wallet of its contents when the time to pay came. Leaving the ramen stand the two shinobi walked towards the Hokage monument.
“I told you not to be upset if I eat too much.” Naruto laughed as he spoke.
Iruka merely spoke in dignified tone, “You said not to complain. You didn’t say anything about me being upset.” Naruto laughed harder at the chuunins brooding as he enjoyed himself to an extent which was very rare as of late.
Iruka snorted, “Seriously, Naruto, 20 bowls of ramen in one sitting. I’ve never seen you eat that much.”
Naruto spoke proudly as he wore his trademark foxy grin, “Gomen, Iruka-sensei. But I think I’ve set a new record.”
Iruka waved off the genin’s pride in himself as they arrived at the bottom of the Hokage monument. Naruto looked at the stairs which led to the top of large monument, “How about a race?”
Iruka wore a confident smirk, “You may be stronger than me Naruto but I’ve been practicing quite hard lately. Don’t be surprised if I beat you in speed.”
Naruto inwardly scoffed since he knew that his current speed was tremendous due to his seal training. Deciding he would take it easy he replied to Iruka, “Whatever. First one to the top is the winner.”
Both ninjas began to run up the long staircase as they tried to run past each other. Naruto smirked before jumping off the staircase and onto the side of the mountain before proceeding to run upwards whilst holding his grip with chakra. Iruka, shocked by his actions, quickly shouted “Oi! Naruto!”
Slapping his forehead at being tricked so easily, the scarred man jumped onto the side of the mountain following suit. Naruto merely laughed as he reached the top leaving Iruka glaring behind him. A few seconds later Iruka reached the top staring daggers into the leaf-nin.
Naruto wore a victorious smirk, “Well, I guess your training didn’t help that much.” He rubbed his nose.
Iruka took a seat on the ground muttering, “Baka! You cheated!”
Naruto walked towards the edge of the mountain looking over the astounding village of Konoha. Silence consumed the two as the blonde continued looking over the village captivated by the amazing sight before him.
The large sun in the distance was easy to the eye as the sky was tinged with red. He stared at the setting ball of fire as a flock of birds flew overhead; their whistling was calm as he enjoyed the undisturbed ambience of the environment.
Iruka broke the silence in a composed voice, “It’s been a while since we came up here.”
Naruto nodded, “I can still remember Ojiisan’s funeral so clearly.” Iruka knew that he was talking about the late Sandaime, “That day it rained so much, I thought the sky was crying.” He closed his eyes as images of the deceased protector of Konoha came to his mind.
“I felt like that on the inside…my heart hurt like never before.” He kept his eyes closed as he reminisced. “A ninja mustn’t show his emotions in any situation…a ninja must prioritise his mission first and must not show any tears…” He tried his hardest to stop his voice from breaking or failing him, “…Those teachings don’t take away the pain a person feels.”
Iruka was surprised with the usually optimistic and cheerful genin act so remorseful and concerted. He felt a jolt inside him warning him of something terrible. Naruto continued, “Do you remember what I asked you that day?”
Iruka replied, still curious as to why the younger ninja was talking about such things, “Hai, you asked why people risk their lives for others?” The scarred male listened attentively as his heart panged for an unknown reason.
Naruto opened his eyes admiring the peaceful view, “When one person dies…he disappears,” his heart throbbed with pain as he said this, “…along with his past, current lifestyle and his future.”
Iruka rose from his position as he heard the young ninja utter those words, his heartbeat increased rapidly as he began to dread what he was going to ask next, “Why? What are you trying to say?” He stared at the blonde’s back waiting for a reply as his throat began to dry, “…Answer me, Naruto.”
The Kyuubi vessel turned to face the man he considered a father, the tears showing in his clear sapphire eyes. The eyes that were normally vibrant and full of life answered Iruka’s question however he still held hope that his dire assumption was wrong. Naruto spoke ignoring his itching throat as he stood facing one of the most precious people alive to him, “…Will you forget me…Iruka-sensei?”
The last threads of hope that Iruka held broke as he heard the genin ask him that question. He felt a great deal of pain entering his heart and hurting him. His eyes began to water as the tears trickled down his face. He found himself incapable of speaking as his throat blocked his voice from coming out. Walking forwards he pulled the boy into a hug tightly. Trying his hardest to speak, he managed in a broken voice, “Why…Naruto? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
Naruto let a few tears escape his eyes as he responded, “The worst feeling…is when you hurt those dear to you…”
Iruka felt his heart being torn to shreds as his tears fell onto the younger ninja’s shoulders, “I would never forget the boy…who is like my son.”

Chapter 13: Passing Of The Torch
Sakura walked into the Godaime’s office with a stack of papers. The chuunin exams were beginning tomorrow and all the applicant’s details needed to be checked and approved. It had been over a week since her date with Naruto and she hadn’t seen the genin since. The fact that he had left her there without an explanation, hurt her deeply. She constantly tried to think of something else but her mind kept drifting back to that day. Walking forwards she placed the stack of papers on the desk of the Hokage, “These are all the papers they gave me, Tsunade-shisou.”
The medic-nin was returning from the academy, having gone there by request of the Hokage. Team 7 had no missions for the day however Sakura found herself participating in anything possible to help take her mind off Naruto. Tsunade looked at the large stack of papers before slapping her forehead, “I always hate doing this.”
The busty blonde pulled the stack of papers towards her and began to look through them. She sighed as she checked the details of the first applicant to make sure everything was in order. She was interrupted as Sakura spoke, “Tsunade-shisou is there anything else I can do?”
The Hokage put her chin on her folded hands as she observed her apprentice. She knew that her date with the jinchuuriki had not gone well. Originally, when she noticed her sombre mood, she assumed Naruto had told her. She was soon proven wrong discovering that Naruto had rejected Sakura without providing any explanation as to why. The significant impact on the pink haired girl was visible even if she tried to hide it. Sakura constantly overworked herself and would now always request missions or some form of assignment to keep herself occupied. Leaning backwards in her chair, Tsunade replied, “I think you should get some rest.”
Sakura was surprised by the answer, “I’m not tired yet.”
Tsunade shook her head, “Sakura…” She made sure she was careful in how she approached the younger ninja, “You haven’t taken a break for over a week now.”
Sakura laughed half-heartedly, “That’s because I don’t need one. When I do, I’ll take it.”
Tsunade felt sorry for the girl. Sighing, she decided to give her advice, “Even if you try to keep yourself busy…once it’s over the thoughts always come back.”
Sakura looked away from her mentor, “I don’t know understand what you’re trying to say.”
“Sakura…” She looked at the medic who continued staring at the floor with a downcast expression, “…talk to him.”
Tsunade noticed the pain that flashed through her student’s eyes as she spoke, “He said no. There’s nothing to really talk about.”
“He’s probably hurting as much as you are…” The Godaime hoped her words would have some effect, “You said yourself that he didn’t tell you why. That means there’s a reason, make him tell you.”
Sakura listened attentively to the Hokage. Her feelings were haywire as she still felt for Naruto but at the same time her heart had been broken. “Maybe he doesn’t feel the same way anymore.”
Tsunade used all her willpower to not tell Sakura the truth. She knew that it wasn’t her place, “If that was really true…he wouldn’t have gone on the date in the first place.”
Sakura folded her arms, “What makes you so sure?”
Tsunade began to sweat at the suddenness of the question; she avoided it by asking one of her own, “Why have you given up?”
Sakura felt guilty at the words the Hokage spoke, “I haven’t given up.” Her voice displayed her uncertainty.
Tsunade smirked knowing that Sakura had fell for her trap, “Then prove it. Confront him about your feelings.”
Naruto tapped his foot impatiently, waiting for his mentor to arrive. His arms were folded across his chest as his eye twitched out of irritation. The past week had passed really quickly as he trained extremely hard to get ready for his match with Jiraiya. He had a proud aura surrounding him as he had finally completed each of the element scrolls he had received from the perverted hermit.
Nonetheless as successful as part of his training had been, he had failed in progressing with the Hiraishin No Jutsu. This was causing him to worry as he wanted to learn the legendary technique as quickly as he could, since he wasn’t sure of when the Akatsuki could attack. Even though it was most probable they would wait until the finals of the chuunin exams, they could just as easily decide to come earlier. Silently, he was hoping they wouldn’t arrive yet as he was planning to exclusively concentrate on the difficult technique over the next month.
His kenjutsu training had been progressing at a rapid rate and he found himself able to stay on par with Sasuke in his spars. The Uchiha was pushing Naruto to his limits but the blonde was also worried about the inquiring eyes his friend had shown him at their last encounter. He was sure the black haired teenager was getting increasingly suspicious of him.
Snapping out of his thoughts he felt the familiar presence of his perverted mentor approaching him. ‘About time.’ Jiraiya landed a few feet away from his protégé quickly straightening from his bent down position. Naruto felt his anger rise before it exploded from out his throat, “What took you so long, Ero-sennin!”
Jiraiya waved his hands in front of him, “Calm down Naruto. I would’ve been on time but I got distracted with something important.” He started giggling.
Naruto shook his head out of frustration knowing full well that he meant he was peeping at the bath house and lost track of time. “It doesn’t matter. Let’s begin already.”
Jiraiya smiled inwardly at the jinchuuriki’s eagerness, “You’re certainly excited aren’t you?”
Naruto grinned as a confirmation towards his opponent. He had been anticipating this battle for a long and tiring six days, training twice as hard. This was the moment he would understand how far his training had brought him. Jiraiya was the measuring stick for him to compare his growth to. He knew that the sannin was around the level of the Akatsuki so he needed to be able to defeat him in order to stand a realistic chance against the formidable organisation. He readied himself as a tingling sensation went throughout his body filling him with exhilaration.
Jiraiya continued staring into the eyes of the younger ninja not daring to divert his attention. He knew that the seal training would have propelled his speed to higher level than his own and his advantage in this battle would be his extensive knowledge and experience.
The wind blew slowly ruffling the hair of the two ninja. The entire training ground was in complete silence, only the sounds of nature protruding through the intense atmosphere. A few decaying leaf blew past Naruto’s eyes as he made his move.
Instantly the blonde vanished from his position. Jiraiya, noticing his highly rapid movement brought his right arm up to the side of his head blocking Naruto’s punch as it impacted against him. A smirk was across the genin’s face as he quickly turned attempting to deliver a kick to the other side of Jiraiya’s temple. Anticipating the move, the sannin ducked underneath before sending his right leg towards Naruto sweeping him off his feet. He tried to follow with a palm strike to the young ninja’s chin but Naruto quickly positioned his hand underneath him flipping away from the upcoming attack, landing a few feet away from his opponent.
Naruto once again launched himself at his mentor throwing another punch. Jiraiya caught the strike in the palm of his hand before blocking the following kick to his leg. Naruto smiled which caused the sannin to become surprised as he realised another hand speeding towards his face from the side, connecting hard. Jiraiya stopped himself from falling on his back as he flipped to an upright position in midair.
Landing on the hard ground, he gave a smirk as he saw two Narutos staring back at him. ‘Impressive, when I caught his hand he distracted me with the following kick. He must’ve created the clone with his free hand. But if he can do one handed seals, I should be more careful.’
Naruto and his clone manoeuvred themselves so they were on each side of the sannin. Jiraiya stood cautiously with one eye on each of them. The shadow clone ran forward throwing a kunai which Jiraiya dodged by moving his head. He stopped a few feet from Jiraiya before jumping to the side.
“Futon Daitoppa,” Jiraiya’s eyes widened as he heard the real Naruto yell. Turning around as quickly as possible he put his hands in a guard position blocking the damage of the technique. However the incoming gust of wind blew him off his feet as he flew backwards. The shadow clone jumped towards Jiraiya as he passed him aiming a kick at his face. Jiraiya grabbed the clone’s ankle in midair and turned to plant his elbow in its stomach dispelling it.
Landing on his feet he realised Naruto was nowhere to be seen. He quickly looked around trying to locate him with his keen eyes. “Doton Shinju Zanshu No Justu.” A pair of hands grabbed Jiraiyas ankles as they emerged from the ground below.
Quickly forming seals, the sannin yelled, “Doton Deido Suberioriru,” The ground underneath Jiraiya turned into mud moving forwards at a rapid pace. The sannin jumped out of harms way when he felt Naruto’s hands loosen around his ankle.
He heard a familiar poof as he realised the Naruto in his earth technique was a clone. ‘He must have had a clone there all along waiting for me. Not bad, you’re thinking ahead…’ Turning around, he caught Naruto’s punch which had been aimed at his head. ‘But you have to do better in order to beat me.’ Quickly forming a firm grasp around his students arm he threw him in the direction of the waterfall.
Naruto drifted through the air before he flipped landing on top of the plunge pool. He looked towards Jiraiya with a smirk, “So you figured it out huh?”
Jiraiya replied, “Of course, I am one of the legendary sannin after all. You didn’t create one clone but two. One of them hid while you and the other one lured me to where he was.”
Naruto scratched the back of his head laughing before adopting a more staid demeanour, “Time to get serious.”
Jiraiya nodded as he began to run. Naruto awaited the perverted hermit as he approached. The sannin ran across the water throwing a palm strike to the genin’s chest. Naruto blocked it and sent his own fist soaring towards the older shinobi. Jiraiya turned avoiding it and drove his right foot into Naruto’s stomach sending him flying backwards through the waterfall.
The sannin jumped backwards onto the land as he waited defensively knowing that the jinchuuriki was far from finished, especially since he had only received one blow. Suddenly 5 Narutos jumped out from behind the tremendous waterfall shouting, “Katon Gokakyu No Jutsu.”
The five blazing fireballs approached the sannin as he formed seals within seconds. “Doton Doroku Gaeshi,” Jiraiya struck his hands on the hard ground raising a large wall made of earth to protect him from the incoming fireballs. He placed both his hands onto the wall reinforcing its structure with chakra to make sure it could withstand the force of the fireballs.
The balls of fire connected with a resounding impact but not being able to break through the defence. Jiraiya began to sweat as he felt the heat but quickly shifted his head to the side as a fist flew past him into the wall made of earth. Naruto, having missed with his initial attack raised his knee striking the older man in the back. He continued with a punch to the side of his face and a kick to the back of his leg, sending the sannin to the ground, followed by a stiff elbow which drove Jiraiya’s face into the tough wall made of earth.
Naruto attacked again with another fast punch but his hand met rock as he felt a jolt of pain run through his knuckles. ‘Kawarimi.’ He was broken roughly from his thoughts as he felt a violent crash into his ribs. Jiraiya followed his punch with a well placed upwards palm strike to the genin’s chin sending him a few feet into the air. Naruto attempted to counter by kicking the sannin after being lifted off the ground however the experienced shinobi moved around the strike delivering one of his own deadly kicks to his chest sending Naruto sprawling to the ground.
Quickly regaining his footing, Naruto stared intently at the sannin who was bleeding from his nose. He felt a sour taste in his own mouth before some blood dripped out onto his chin. Jiraiya stood alert, aware of the fact that there were still 5 clones hiding somewhere. ‘He used his clones to attack me, remaining behind the waterfall himself. When I defended myself, he capitalised on the distraction to sneak behind me. His skill with his clones is amazing.’
Jiraiya’s attention was directly attracted towards Naruto as he slowly reached into his pouch. The sannin’s eyes widened in disbelief when he saw the Kyuubi vessel draw a three pronged kunai along with a special seal tied around it. ‘He’s already learnt it, this quick…which means he may have put the seal on me. No he couldn’t have or else he would have used the opportunity by now.’
Jiraiya keenly observed his student as he knew that it was near enough impossible to stop from being fatally attacked when that technique was used. He was going to rely on his instincts as he readied himself. Naruto threw the kunai at his mentor before launching himself into the air. Shock flowed through Jiraiya as there was no flash and the kunai flew past him. He realised he had been tricked as a cry filled the air, “Suiton Teppodama.”
Naruto shot a ball of water from his mouth towards Jiraiya. The sannin rolled to his left avoiding the incoming attack before being kicked from behind by a reappearing clone of Naruto. He went flying forwards as he met an uppercut sending him into the air. Two more clones jumped at him from each side attempting to drive their feet into his stomach and back at the same time. Jiraiya twisting slightly avoided the attack as the clones hit each other ending up destroyed. He took out two shuriken, swiftly throwing them at the other two clones on the ground and hitting them.
“You forgot about me.” Jiraiya turned to see the final clone approaching from on top, performing a spinning axe kick into his back increasing his rate of descent. Coming within a few feet of the hard surface, Jiraiya was stopped from contact as the real Naruto rushed forwards somersault kicking him in the face making him spin.
Pain rushed through the frog hermits face as he released another shuriken from his hand in mid spin straight towards the clone which was descending from the air, destroying him. Recovering from the well arranged attack, Jiraiya quickly moved back placing some distance between himself and his student.
Naruto stared at his mentor as he regained his stance. ‘He’s really good. So far it’s been equal…but somehow I have to win this.’
The wind blew roughly past both the shinobi as they once again charged one another. They exchanged numerous blows as Naruto connected with the first attack. Jiraiya, recovering instantly, ducked underneath his following punch as he spun landing a sickening elbow to Naruto’s stomach. He followed by tripping Naruto so he fell backwards. Bringing his foot down he stamped Naruto in his ribs which made him sputter. Naruto ignored the blood that escaped his mouth, grabbing Jiraiya’s leg firmly before kicking the sannin in the stomach sending him flying back.
Naruto flipped backwards onto his feet following the soaring frog hermit. Jiraiya drew a kunai from his pouch, flinging it at the oncoming jinchuuriki. Naruto dodged the kunai and threw his own. Landing on his feet, Jiraiya wasn’t quick enough to avoid the fast approaching kunai as it skimmed his shoulder drawing a trickle of blood.
Naruto threw a flurry of punches at the sannin. Jiraiya guarded the punches but his arms were beginning to hurt at the amount of force Naruto put behind them. He stopped guarding them resorting to dodging instead since his arms were beginning to ache. Naruto grinned as he saw the sannin drop his guard and begin to dodge. The seal training had improved his power as well as his speed.
The Uzumaki knew that the older ninja wouldn’t be able to dodge for too long due to his speed. Surely enough, after dodging the first 6 punches, Jiraiya was caught with a hard strike to his jaw reeling him a little. Naruto continued the onslaught landing several blows into his mentor’s stomach and face before finishing the combination with powerful kick.
Jiraiya was sent rolling across the floor. The sannin got back to his feet staring back at the younger ninja. ‘He’s got too much stamina. I have to end this now.’
Naruto ran towards Jiraiya as quickly as he could but his eyes widened as he saw Jiraiya perform hand seals. “Doton Yomi Numa.” A large wave of muddy water rose from all angles as it neared to swallow up Naruto.
Naruto quickly formed his own hand seals, “Arekuruukaze.” Throwing his hands out, a rampant wind circled him before exploding in all directions to stop the wave of water from engulfing him. It was an amazing sight as the wind blew down the rising water away from him submerging the entire training grounds.
Jiraiya jumped out of the way as the water crashed down eventually calming. Looking back in the direction of Naruto, he saw him standing with a grin across his face unscathed from the sannin’s technique.
Jiraiya raised his hand when he saw Naruto preparing to attack again, “That’s enough.”
The jinchuuriki had to stop himself from falling over, “Nani? Why?”
Jiraiya shook his head at Naruto, “This was a test to see how far you have come. I can make a clear assessment of your skills now. There’s no need to continue.”
Naruto scratched the back of his head, “Eh? But I thought we’d fight until there was a winner.”
Jiraiya raised his fist as he shouted, “Baka! Have you forgotten that you’re meant to let your muscles rest once a week? Don’t over exert yourself.”
Naruto laughed nervously at his lack of insight, “Gomen…I guess I got a little too excited.” Looking around, his mouth fell open when he saw the state of his training ground. “Ahh, look what you did Ero-sennin!”
Jiraiya looked at the surrounding environment which was covered in muddy water ruining the trees and other vegetation. He reddened and began to wave his hands, “I’m sure it’ll be fine after a day or two.”
Naruto glared at his mentor, “Where am I going to train now. This was the perfect spot. I can’t train in Konoha. This is because of you Ero-sennin!” He fell to his knees before mumbling to himself about perverted hermits.
Jiraiya frowned thinking of how he could change the subject. His mind lit up, “Come on. Stop crying and I’ll treat you to some ramen.”
Naruto rose to his feet pointing a finger at the frog hermit, “I’m not cryi…ramen?” He started laughing before running past his mentor. Jiraiya inwardly smiled that his plan had worked. Naruto looked back at the perverted shinobi, “You’re paying though.”
Naruto continued running, heading for his favourite ramen stand. Jiraiya glowered, ‘Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.’ He followed the hyperactive ninja.
Sasuke stood leaning against a wall outside one of Konoha’s many restaurant. His eyes were closed and his arms folded. He could hear the people walking past him engaged in their own business. Opening his eyes he saw the person he had been waiting for to arrive.
“Yo,” Kakashi held his Icha Icha Paradise book in one hand, waving with the other. He looked at the restaurant Sasuke was standing outside. “I thought you didn’t like natto and sweets.”
Sasuke ignored his upbeat demeanour standing straight. “I don’t. We need to talk.”
Both shinobis began to walk away from the open restaurant. Kakashi reading his precious book turned a page as he spoke, “About what?”
Sasuke stopped; his hands were in his pockets as he looked at the jounin, “About Naruto.”

Chapter 14: Bond Of Brothers
Naruto viciously ate his bowl of miso ramen much to the disdain and disgust of his mentor who was trying his hardest to avoid being sprayed by bits of food. “Take it easy Naruto.”
The jinchuuriki looked up from his eating endeavour with noodles dangling from his mouth. Swallowing them he turned to his teacher, “I am taking it easy. I’ve only ate 4 bowls so far.”
Jiraiya slapped his head at the lack of understanding shown by the leaf-nin, “Nevermind.” The sannin began to stare at the ramen chef’s daughter with his prying eyes as she worked.
Naruto finishing his bowl of ramen put his chopsticks down and ordered another bowl. “Hey, Ero-sennin…” Akane ears twitched when she heard Naruto utter the peculiar words.
Jiraiya, noticing the change in mood, slammed his mouth over the unsuspecting genin’s mouth preventing him from speaking further. He leaned in to whisper to him, “Ero-sennin, Ero-sennin. How many times have I told you not to call me that in public? You’re going to get me in trouble and ruin my reputation.”
Naruto removed the older ninja’s hand of his mouth, “People deserve to know the truth.” He paused for a moment, “…and what reputation?”
Jiraiya ignoring his words looked at Akane who was staring at him, “Heh, don’t mind us. You continue with your work.” He chuckled nervously.
Naruto took off his jacket and placed it on the stool next to him leaving him in a black t-shirt. He looked on as Akane began to prepare his next bowl of ramen. Having satisfied the majority of his hunger he decided to talk to Jiraiya, “So, how far have I come?”
Jiraiya folded his arms and closed his eyes, effectively entering his lecture mode, “Well…you are near enough at my level.”
Naruto began to laugh punching his fist in the air. He was extremely happy with the words the legendary sannin had spoken. He was broken from his celebrating when the frog hermit continued.
“But…” Naruto turned to look at the author of the Icha Icha Paradise series.
“But what?” He awaited his answer anxiously.
“There are still a few things you have to improve on. You manipulation of the elements you used was quite good. Nonetheless the techniques aren’t as effective as they could be.” Jiraiya nodded his head in a knowing manner.
Naruto scratched the back of his head, “I don’t understand. What’s wrong with them?”
“When your clones used the Katon Gokakyu No Jutsu, it wasn’t as powerful as it should have been. The defence I raised should have realistically crumbled before 5 attacks of that calibre even if I did reinforce the wall with my chakra.”
Naruto understood what the hermit was implying, “So I need to practice them more?”
Jiraiya had a smile across his face, “Hai, practice makes perfect. It’s quite obvious that you don’t need to train with the Futon techniques since you’ve mastered that element. However for the others, keep performing the techniques and your execution of them will improve.”
Naruto had a determined look across his face, “I’ll make sure that I know them to the best of my ability.”
Jiraiya rested his arms on the counter, “How are you doing with the Hiraishin No Jutsu?”
Jiraiya recognised the change in demeanour of the blonde upon his question. He took the silence as a sign that he wasn’t doing very well. Deciding to motivate him a little he talked, “Don’t worry too much about it. You’ve got a whole month ahead of you to learn it. If this training raised you from the level of Kakashi to my own in such a short time…then there is no doubt in my mind that you’ll be ready to take on Akatsuki by the time they arrive.”
Naruto smiled, hearing the shinobi’s words, “I won’t fail.”
Jiraiya was proud of Naruto’s determination and resolve but gave him a final piece of advice, “Remember one important thing Naruto. Power doesn’t always determine the victor in battle. The location of where you are fighting as well as your understanding and experience can determine who has the advantage. The Akatsuki has a lot more experience in battle situations than you but you have determination as well as the heart to never give up. Let them be your driving force.”
The jinchuuriki nodded before answering, “Yeah…”
Akane placed Naruto’s bowl of ramen in front of him giving a smile. Naruto picked up his chopsticks to begin eating but was interrupted by a recognizable voice. “Why didn’t I come here in the first place?”
Naruto turned to see the Hokage of Konoha staring down at him, “Tsunade-baachan?”
Tsunade picked up the ninja’s jacket and sat on the stool. Naruto began to eat his ramen at a speed only capable of him and the clan of the Akimichis. Tsunade observed the two shinobi’s dirty clothes, “What have you been doing?”
Naruto stopped eating his ramen to answer, “I fought Ero-sennin.”
Tsunade had to stop herself from falling off the stool, “Eh? What do you mean fought?”
Jiraiya introduced himself into the conversation to make sure there wasn’t a misunderstanding, “He means I tested him on his abilities.”
Tsunade raised her eyebrows, “And how did he do?”
Naruto finished his ramen, pointing his chopsticks in the face of the Godaime making her lean back in order to not get poked in the eye, “I’m at the level of a sannin now.”
Tsunade quickly slapped him across his head, “Baka! You nearly took my eye out!”
Naruto rubbed his head which had been hit more times than he could remember, “Gomen.”
Jiraiya, interrupting the little scene created by the two blondes, spoke, “Why are you here?”
Tsunade folded Naruto’s jacket placing it on her lap, “I’m here to talk to Naruto.”
Naruto had a confused expression, “You are? Why?”
Tsunade cleared her throat knowing of the sensitive topic she was bringing up, “I wanted to talk to you about Sakura.”
Realisation dawned on Naruto, “Oh…”
“You’re breaking her heart Naruto.” She could see the pain in the genin’s eyes.
Naruto sighed, “This is for the best.”
Tsunade continued, “I understand your reasoning…but she doesn’t know why you’re doing this. Tell her and let her make her own decision.”
Naruto stared at the dull counter in front of him contemplating and dwelling on his thoughts.
Tsunade’s voice turned soft like that of a caring mother, “I know you don’t want to hurt her…but she’s hurting right now…and she’ll continue hurting until you tell her.”
Naruto got up from his seat, “I need time…to think.”
He reached for the jacket in Tsunade’s lap with his left arm. However the gambling addict noticed the peculiar seal on his left forearm and grabbed his arm before he could pull away. She inspected the pattern; she had never seen anything like it before, “What’s this?”
Naruto pulled his hand back and began to laugh loudly. The legendary sucker stared at him unaware of what was so funny. Naruto turned to Jiraiya, still laughing, to see the super pervert looking at him awkwardly. Coughing slightly, he raised a finger as if to explain. Waiting a few moments he ran out of the ramen stand. Tsunade quickly shouted behind him, “Oi, Naruto!” She glared at Jiraiya daring him to make a similar move. “Explain.”
Jiraiya began to sweat, “First, you’re going to want something to drink.” Ordering some sake he picked up two cups and gave one to the Hokage. ‘Baka, Naruto! Why do you always leave me in these situations?’
Sasuke was sitting on the wooden pier he had always come to when he was a child to find solace. The sun was setting leaving a tinge of red in the sky and the clear lake, in front of him, was making soft soothing sounds as it calmly moved.
The Uchiha rested his elbows on his thighs whiles his legs hanged off the end. He reflected over what he had been told by Kakashi. Letting his mind drift back to thoughts of this morning; he closed his eyes.
Sasuke and Kakashi had ended up at their teams meeting place. The Uchiha went to lean against the railing as he waited for an answer from the jounin.
Kakashi pocketed his precious orange book adopting a more serious tone. “Why do you think there is something wrong with Naruto?”
Sasuke sighed as Kakashi didn’t directly answer his question, opting instead to ask one of his own, “His recent behaviour. Not to mention what happened between him and Sakura…he would never hurt her…so this makes me think he had a significant reason to do so. Is that good enough?”
Kakashi had a smirk underneath his mask, “Very perceptive. But why do you think I know the reason?”
Sasuke folded his arms, “At the party…after his dance. I saw you two talking on the balcony. I also noted how, for a period of time after that, you seemed disturbed.”
Kakashi, looked at the Uchiha amazed by the fact that he had been observing them so much, “It would be best if you asked Naruto for yourself.”
Sasuke closed his eyes, “I would…but it’s near enough impossible to find him.”
Kakashi turned away from his student staring across the river, sighing he decided to answer the persistent Uchiha, “When he fought the resurrected Yondaime. You saw his transformation.”
Sasuke, opened his eyes, absorbing the information “Yeah.”
“The Kyuubi’s chakra is something which can’t be controlled. It is toxic by nature and damages Naruto every time he uses it.” Kakashi put his hands on the railing pausing for a few moments.
Sasuke looked at the jounins back trying to figure out where he could be heading with this. His attention returned to Kakashi as he spoke again, “Out of desperation, he used too much of the Kyuubi’s chakra, two thirds to be exact if the number of tails was an indication. You saw the shroud surrounding his body but there is also chakra rushing inside of him at the same time. He has no control when in such a state and will remain in it until his body can’t take it anymore or if someone stops him. Out of all the people there, Jiraiya-sama was the only one who was capable of calming him… but he was too busy with Orochimaru at the time. You saw his state after the battle.”
Sasuke stood straight as he addressed the ex-Anbu, “What does this have to do with anything? Hokage-sama cured him right after.”
Kakashi turned to face the Uchiha, the sorrow showing in his exposed eye, “No Sasuke…she just delayed the inevitable.”
End Flashback
Sasuke opened his eyes as the memorable pain of loss entered his heart. These past few weeks, he was slowly getting accustomed to being back in Konoha. He knew that things would never return to normal as they had been in the past because of his betrayal. Nonetheless he still had the trust of his friends.
He looked across the lake remembering his blonde companion. He couldn’t understand how this could have happened. His remaining hope for things to turn out well had crumbled upon hearing of his coming death.
He felt the familiar feeling of loneliness once again creep up on him and leave him broken. He couldn’t explain it but the torturing pain of losing his family once again clouded his senses as he felt his heart aching.
His mind was drawn back to his encounter with the jinchuuriki at the Valley Of The End. He had released his frustration when Naruto had tried to change his mind about leaving.
“What do you know about me, with no siblings and parents! You were alone from the start! What the hell do you know!”
Remembering the words he had said to the genin made him feel a wave of regret and guilt rush over him. He felt a watery substance cloud his vision as he attempted to hold it from escaping. The jinchuuriki’s reply invaded his thoughts.
“It’s true that I don’t know anything about parents or siblings, but…when I’m with Iruka-sensei, I wonder…if this is what it’s like having a dad…”
Sasuke looked at the sparkling water below him not seeing his own reflection but the face of Naruto from 3 years prior. He stared, taken aback at the image; the normally blue eyes were replaced with a fierce crimson colour as they stared back. But behind them was the pain of solitude and sorrow. His hands moved to the side of the wooden pier supporting him as he leaned forward looking into the eyes of his friend.
“…and when I’m with you…if this is what it’s like having a brother.”
Sasuke gritted his teeth as his grip around the pier tightened; his nails digging into the wood. His vision was completely obscured as he let two tears fall from his eyes to the water below. He saw the cheerless face of his friend disappear as the droplets of grief landed in his crimson eyes sending a ripple through the water.
Letting go of his emotions his arms shook as he fully understood what was going to happen. Realising, that if he hadn’t gone to Orochimaru this wouldn’t have happened, he felt angry with himself. Naruto had sacrificed his life just to bring him back from darkness. Rising from his position he headed off to confront the dying ninja.
Sakura walked up the stairs which led to Naruto’s apartment. The sun had set leaving the night sky as well as the bright stars. She had decided to talk with the leaf-nin and tell him how she felt. Thinking about her mentor’s words throughout the morning, she realised the best course of action would be to talk to the hyperactive ninja. Reaching the top she walked forward towards his apartment door. There was no light from the inside as far as she could tell.
She knocked on the door awaiting a response. Nobody answered and she knew that he wasn’t home at the moment. She didn’t know what to do. It had taken her all her courage to come here and talk to him but there was no one here. Knowing that it would be a mistake if she left now, she decided to wait for his arrival since he had to come home sooner or later.
Naruto whistled as he walked with his hands folded across the back of his head. He looked around and found himself at Team 7’s meeting place. He walked onto the bridge as the night sky covered the area in darkness, the only light being given from the glittering stars shining elegantly. He reached the middle of the bridge looking over the rail into the water below. It was quite dark but he could make the outlines of the fish swimming in the shallow river. He let a smile dawn his face as he enjoyed the undisturbed atmosphere.
His attention was aroused as he felt a presence. Turning, his eyes landed on the figure of his friend, “Sasuke?” He looked at the usually unperturbed ninja who seemed different. Glancing at his eyes he saw the disturbance behind them. Walking forwards a little he spoke, “Are you alri…”
He was stopped from finishing as the sharingan wielder charged forwards throwing a punch at his face. Naruto saw the strike approaching but made no attempt at blocking it, taking the hard hit head on. He fell on his back at the force of the blow leaving him staring at the stars above. Sasuke looked at his blonde friend as he calmly lay on his back, “…Were you even going to tell me?”
Naruto realised that the Uchiha knew. He closed his eyes as he thought of an appropriate response. “…We suffer because of our bonds.”
Sasuke stepped back upon hearing his words since that was the exact thing he had said to the jinchuuriki when they fought at the Valley Of The End. Sasuke shook his head, “You were planning on dying…without even letting me know.”
Naruto opened his eyes as he sat up. He brought one of his knees towards himself as he rested his arm on it. “…yeah.”
Sasuke gritted his teeth, feeling desolate inside, “Why?”
Naruto looked towards the floor of the bridge they were situated on, “…You were right…”
Sasuke looked at the sitting shinobi, “Right?”
Naruto continued in a calm voice, “…at that time…I didn’t know what it felt like to lose someone...but after, I understood.” He was talking about their encounter at the Valley Of The End.
Sasuke realised what the genin was saying as he remembered his words from a few weeks ago.
“When you left…so did a part of me.”
Naruto raised his face to look at the black haired teenager, the tears suppressed within his eyes and his voice broken, “…the pain of being alone hurts…but the pain of losing someone…slowly kills you inside.” The tears fell from his whiskered visage on to the floor, “…that’s what it felt like didn’t it…Sasuke…when you lost your family?”
Sasuke tore away his face from looking at Naruto, now fully understanding how Naruto felt when he had left. He couldn’t handle seeing the sorrow within his eyes. His own tears trickled down his face before he spoke, “Is this why you were willing to sacrifice yourself…just to save me.”
Naruto had a heart-warming smile across his face as he stared at the Uchiha’s downcast form, “…Everyone deserves some peace…a break from the darkness…an embrace from the light.”
Sasuke looked at his friend, his hair no longer covering his mourning face as the unforgiving wave of sorrow crept up his back, “…So you sacrificed your own happiness…to bring me peace.” He felt anger build within him, “You think that’s right? You think I deserved that?” He stared at the unresponsive form of his friend, “ANSWER ME NARUTO!”
Naruto kept on smiling as he looked at the panting Uchiha, “…The people who suffer…they all deserve a chance for contentment.”
Sasuke looked on disbelievingly, “What about your happiness Naruto?”
Naruto eyes showed distress but fortitude also, “A good Hokage puts the benefit of his people before himself…but a great Hokage…puts the benefits of everyone before himself…I find happiness in knowing I haven’t failed those who needed me.”
Sasuke fell back on to the wood below him. He couldn’t believe what was happening. The same pain and heartache from the day he lost his family threatened to choke him. Speaking in a wrecked voice he asked the shinobi a simple question, “How long?”
Naruto gave a poignant sigh, “6 or 7 months…a year if I get lucky.”
Sasuke punched the floor causing it to break a little, “Why! The Kyuubi should have enough chakra to keep you alive longer than that!”
Naruto looked at the stars as they sparkled, “He has enough chakra to keep me alive for over a hundred years.”
The sharingan wielder spoke in a penitent tone, “How do you have so little time left then?”
Naruto closed his eyes inhaling the scent of the air, “His chakra is toxic. Right now it’s surrounding all the chakra coils in my body keeping them in one piece. The only problem is that my coils haven’t developed to take his chakra at a continuous rate. Having him give me a small amount of chakra constantly over a long period of time is the same as him giving me a lot of chakra at once…it’ll damage me…eventually his chakra will begin to do the opposite of what it’s doing now.”
Naruto rose from position and rubbed his jaw. He walked past the Uchiha before looking back with a genuine smile across his countenance, “You’ve got another chance…a new beginning…make the most of it.”
Sasuke looked at the disappearing form of his friend; his eyes dropped to the ground. ‘Yeah…but it came at a cost.’

Chapter 15: Sinister Foreboding
Tsunade put down her cup of sake and began to rub her forehead. She wasn’t pleased with what she had been told by her ex-team mate but was also, at the same time, apprehensive of how such a thing could’ve happened, “I don’t understand this.”
Jiraiya moved the cup in his hand slowly sending the sake inside spiralling before gulping it down, refilling his empty cup he spoke, “The first time Naruto told me about it…I found it hard to believe as well.”
Tsunade sighed, speaking in a low voice so only Jiraiya would hear, “Are you sure the Kyuubi didn’t ask for anything?”
Jiraiya had a serious demeanour as he spoke calmly, “From what Naruto told me, he readily agreed.”
The two sannin sat quietly watching the old man and his daughter clean up. There were no other customers apart from them. The sun had disappeared a long time ago, time seemed to be still for the Hokage as she contemplated the new piece of information she had received.
The Godaime broke the silence, “The seal is weakening…which means the fox has been busy trying to escape.” Jiraiya nodded at the woman’s words before she continued, “But then he agrees to something like this. Naruto must have done something incredible to persuade him.”
Jiraiya put down his cup of sake shaking his head, “No…he didn’t do anything. Kyuubi is a proud demon and he can’t be convinced…particularly by the kind that he loathes. Naruto told me of his threats…he would destroy us the first chance he got.” Jiraiya stared at the counter intently, “He knows something…”
Tsunade stared at the white haired hermit upon his last statement, “What makes you say that?”
Jiraiya spoke in a serious tone, “From what we know of the Kyuubi…he wouldn’t ever do something like this…especially if he was close to escaping. If Naruto dies so does he; he’s been forced to stop attempting to weaken the seal even more than it already is because of the state Naruto is in. His pact with Naruto was forged long before the battle with Orochimaru…he has an idea of what could happen.”
Tsunade felt the hair on the back of her neck rise up leaving her with a feeling of dread, “This is bad.” She sighed finishing another cup of sake.
Jiraiya ran his hand through his long hair, “Yeah…and the one who may have an idea of what’s going on would never tell us.”
Naruto slowly walked up the stairs to his apartment, his encounter with Sasuke fresh on his mind. He felt guilty about not telling the Uchiha and letting him find out elsewhere. He let the calm wind ruffle his hair enjoying its cooling presence. Reaching the top, he walked forwards only to stop in his tracks when he saw familiar emerald eyes looking in his direction.
“Sakura-chan?” He looked at the medic-nin who quickly faced towards the ground.
Sakura had been waiting for over an hour for the blonde to arrive and was glad that he finally came but she felt her courage slip from her when she faced him. She was confused not knowing how to exactly respond.
Naruto, noting her sombre mood, knew that it was his fault. “I owe you an explanation.”
Sakura looked at the genin relieved that he had made the first move since she felt a little awkward. “I needed to say something as well.”
Naruto scratched the back of his head not entirely sure of how to begin. This was the moment he would have to reveal his condition to her. He couldn’t let her find out the same way Sasuke did. He stumbled for words as he felt the wind pick up blowing past him roughly.
Sakura felt a cold shudder flow through her as the air around her dropped in temperature. Naruto, noticing her reaction to the weather as well as the fact that they were still outside, reddened from embarrassment. “Maybe we should go inside.” He walked towards his apartment door opening it and led the pink haired medic inside.
Sakura felt grateful as she entered the relatively small abode letting the warmth encase her body. Naruto closed the door behind them before walking in the direction of his kitchen. Sakura followed the jinchuuriki and took a seat at the small table.
Naruto, poured himself some water, turning he looked at Sakura who had her attention strictly on him, “Would you like some?”
Sakura nodded letting a smile appear across her face, “Hai.”
Naruto felt a pleasing sensation run through him at seeing the kunoichi’s smile. His whiskered face adopted a smile of its own which he quickly removed due to what he was planning on telling her. Giving Sakura her water, he sat down opposite her quietly.
Sakura downed the liquid quickly, moistening her dry throat. Putting her glass down; she saw Naruto looking at her. The leaf-nin averted his gaze upon being caught, “Gomen…I didn’t mean to stare.”
She couldn’t help but inwardly smile at his antics. Strengthening her resolve she decided to speak first, “Before you give me an explanation…I wanted to let you know…” Her voice broke off stopping her from finishing. She didn’t understand why it was so hard to speak to the hyperactive ninja.
Naruto was curious as to what she exactly meant, “Know what?”
Sakura spoke in a whisper, her eyes on the wooden table she was seated at, “…my feelings.”
Naruto felt his breath leave him when he heard her response. They had been getting closer ever since his return from his training trip with Jiraiya and in recent weeks their relationship was escalating to a new level. He felt delight at hearing those words but knew that it would be harder to tell her. He gave a nod to the kunoichi, who was now looking at him, as a signal to continue elaborating.
Sakura stared into his sapphire eyes speaking in a quiet voice, “When I first met you, I always thought you deliberately tried to annoy me…” She felt guilty as she spoke but continued, “…but as we started spending more time together…I began to see who you really were…everything people said about you…they were wrong.”
Naruto looked at her with a mix of surprise and sympathy. He had never seen the kunoichi in such a manner. Sakura looked away from Naruto before continuing, “…that day when you made your promise…do you remember what you said?”
“Right now, you’re in pain. A pain I know well.”
Naruto’s words flashed through his mind before he replied, “Hai.”
Sakura spoke softly, “I realised that day…how well you really understood me…”
Naruto looked down, a sweet smile across his face, “You don’t have to say more.”
Sakura felt her heart aching as she shook her head, “…You always tried to help me…but I pushed you away.” She felt culpable, “…the day we became a team you asked me what I thought of you…I gave you an answer not knowing who you really were…but I’ll give you my real reply now.”
Naruto was shocked by her words as he realised what she meant. She knew that it was him asking her, when he transformed into Sasuke. He looked into her pain filled eyes.
Sakura held back her tears as she spoke, “You’re kind…thoughtful…loving…you always think about others before yourself…”
Naruto closed his eyes since he couldn’t look at the kunoichi. A feeling of bliss swelled up inside him as she spoke.
Sakura smiled, “…whenever I’m with you…I forget everything that’s bothering me…I feel safe…”
Naruto rose from his seat at the table walking over to the window and looking outside to the sky above. He couldn’t handle looking at the confessing girl opting instead to stare at the twinkling stars.
Sakura stared at Naruto as he looked outside, continuing, “…for a long time now…you made me feel something that I had never felt before…I wasn’t sure what it was…”
Naruto felt his eyes begin to water dreading what she was going to say next.
Sakura smiled, “…but I understand now…” She felt the courage build within her, “…I love you.”
Naruto felt his heart breaking knowing that this wouldn’t work out. For the first time in the past month, the news of his death hurt him more deeply than he could’ve imagined.
Sakura clasped her hands putting them in her lap before speaking in a soft regretful tone, “It hurts though…to know I was late…that you don’t feel the same way anymore.” Her voice became a whisper before she finished, “That’s all I wanted to say.”
Naruto calmed himself, “My feelings never changed.” Sakura looked at him as he turned to face her. His eyes were filled with a deep anguish as he spoke, “The circumstances did.”
Sakura didn’t comprehend the meaning of his words. She felt elated at hearing him say that he still felt the same. However she could feel a weird sensation building within her attempting to stop her from asking her next question. For some reason she began to dread the upcoming answer she might receive. She asked with a hint of obvious hesitation, “If you still feel the same…then what does it matter?”
Naruto sat back on the window sill speaking in a composed voice, “That’s why it matters…” Sakura was confused with his answer as he continued, “…When I made that promise…it was because I never wanted to see you like that again…to see you in that much pain…I don’t want you be upset when I leave.”
Sakura rose from her seat walking forwards so she was only a few feet away from Naruto, “What are you trying to say?” Something was wrong with the way he spoke. She couldn’t understand why he would be leaving.
Naruto closed his eyes, “…You remember when I fought the Yondaime.”
Sakura could feel her heart become uneasy not liking where the jinchuuriki could be heading with this. “Of course…how could I forget?”
The hyperactive ninja nodded before speaking once again, “…You saw my condition after that…” Sakura felt a pain within her being reminded of his fatal state on that night, “…Even though I could feel my life slipping away…I saw you…crying as you looked at me…it felt as if I had broken my promise…but I came back didn’t I?”
Sakura felt the realness of the day flash through her memories as she struggled to repress a tear, “Naruto…why are you bringing this up?”
Naruto opened his eyes as he saw the girl in front of him looking towards the ground. He abandoned his seat on the window sill walking forwards, towards her. Bringing his hand to her face, he wiped the solitary tear away, “…This time…” Sakura looked at him, “…there’s no coming back.”
Sakura felt her already disturbed heart shatter into pieces as she understood what he was saying. She gazed into his deep eyes hoping that he was joking. But she knew her hope was misplaced as the shinobi’s face revealed his seriousness in the matter. All her dreams about everything turning out well in the end with the reunion of her team were destroyed. Her emerald eyes began to water as she let the tears of grief break out. She quickly hugged the blonde wrapping her arms tightly around his waist crying into his chest.
Naruto stared at the pink haired medic hugging him before slowly wrapping his own arms around her, “It would hurt a lot more if we were together.”
Sakura heard his words before pushing him away, the tears streaked down her face, “Baka! Is this what’s stopping you? Why would it hurt more? I’m already in love with you!”
Naruto looked guiltily at the kunoichi as he hadn’t imagined she would react this way. He honestly believed it would be better to not get closer now. Sakura walked nearer to him, her voice soft and the tears still visible, “I don’t care…I’d rather know what could have been…than to live the rest of my life in regret.”
Naruto looked into her captivating eyes, “Sakura-chan…”
Sakura stood in front of the unsuspecting genin as she looked deeply into his sapphire eyes, “…You’ve always tried to make me happy…it hurt me that I couldn’t do anything for you…but this time…I want to return the favour…” Naruto let a smile appear across his visage as a tear leaked from his eye, “…I want to be there…by your side…until the end.”
He gazed at the kunoichi, a warming feeling radiating from her. He had a smile across his face as he spoke, “How can you be so sure that it would be better this way?”
She slowly wrapped her arms around his neck, “It’s easier when you share the pain…”
The two shinobi looked at each other, a renewed understanding between them as they fully acknowledged their true selves. They leaned forward, their faces inching closer. Naruto felt a whirlwind of feelings flow through him but they ultimately ended with a sense of contentment brewing within him. ‘Somehow…you always make me feel…at peace.’ He felt her breath before they kissed. A new sensation passed through him as he enjoyed the touch of her soft lips. His insides were buzzing with happiness as he let his arms coil around her waist embracing her. Sakura relished the new experience as she enjoyed her first kiss. After a few moments they parted slowly looking into each others eyes.
Naruto reddened, his worries leaving him, “That…was…” He scratched the back of his head, “Arigatou, Sakura-chan.”
Sakura had a smile across her pretty face; she felt a little more comfort at having been in the blonde’s embrace. She grabbed a hold of his hand leading him through the apartment.
Naruto broken out of his stupor spoke, “Where are you going?”
Sakura looked at the bedroom across the living room. She led the hyperactive ninja through the room as he stumbled across the various things strewn on the floor. As they both entered the bedroom Sakura closed the door. Naruto realised the situation and turned to face the kunoichi, “I don’t think this is…” He was broken from his speech as Sakura once again locked lips with him.
He immediately began to enjoy the pleasure of feeling her smooth lips. His arms went around her pulling her in close. He felt her tongue slither across his lips asking for entrance. He gladly complied letting her roaming tongue into his mouth enjoying the succulent taste he felt. An immense wave of bliss drifted through his body as he savoured the moment, his hold over her tightened when he deepened the kiss.
They continued their activity passionately for a few minutes before Naruto broke the kiss taking a breath. Sakura moved her hands to his jacket slowly taking it off. Naruto initially surprised, quickly spoke his thoughts, “Sakura-chan…are you sure you want this?” Sakura’s mind drifted back to her mentors words.
“A person never knows when they fall in love…it’s a feeling that builds up over time.”
Sakura smiled and nodded. Her insides were tingling as she realised what she was about to do. A red tint appeared on her cheeks as she answered, “Hai...” Naruto discarded his jacket and kicked off his sandals as he took the girl in his arms.
They once again exchanged a series of passionate kisses as they let their desire for each other cloud their senses. Naruto let his hands wander her body as they slowly moved lower. He grabbed her rear tightly which earned a gasp out of the beauty in his arms. He continued caressing the curved figure as their tongues danced, eliciting moans of pleasure.
Sakura pushed him onto the relatively small bed as she proceeded to get rid of her boots. Taking a position on top of him, her hips straddled his waist; she could feel his hardened state as she bent over to place kisses on his whiskered face.
Naruto’s hands moved to her thighs as Sakura shivered slightly from the cold touch. Quickly placing their lips in synch he entered her mouth enjoying her sweet taste all the while stroking her smooth skin. Sakura moved back before licking his cheek earning a shudder out of the jinchuuriki. She moved her hands to the zip on her vest.
Naruto stared with eyes wide anticipating her move, growing harder as each second passed. Sakura slowly unzipped the vest revealing more skin much to Naruto’s delight. The moonlight clearly reflected her gorgeous features as her creamy skin shined, her breasts only concealed by the red bra she was wearing. Naruto with a clear view couldn’t help himself as he rose to sitting position. He grabbed her as he began to place kisses on her neck.
Sakura held his hair as she felt an arousing feeling of excitement build with each of his kisses. Letting his animalistic side get the better of him, Naruto bit down on her neck earning a gasp which quickly turned into a pleasing moan. He proceeded to lick her soft skin as he left a trail of kisses slowly leading to her chin.
Sakura, feeling the hardness of his member underneath her, was becoming wet. Her hands still in his hair, she planted a rough kiss on his lips. Their passionate dance followed with Sakura letting her hands move underneath his black t-shirt. Naruto felt himself become even more aroused as her soft hands roamed his well defined body. Sakura pulled the shirt over his head before pushing him onto his back.
Leaning over him she brushed her knee against his hardened figure in the middle of his legs. She was delighted when she heard the moan escape the blonde’s mouth. She slowly planted kisses on his stomach teasing him. Moving around his hardened stomach she began to lick his chest before kissing his hardened nipple.
Naruto gave a moan of extreme pleasure as the pink haired girl worked his defined figure. He had never experienced anything like this before and had a vast amount of rapture running through the muscles of his body. Moving his hand behind her as she kissed his built pectorals; he unclasped her bra before throwing it to a side. Sakura’s startled reaction quickly changed into a smile.
Naruto reversed their positions so he was in between her legs. He looked at her voluptuous breasts before moving down and licking the nipple of one of them. Sakura moaned in response to his actions as she clenched the sheets of his bed. Naruto satisfied with the results he was receiving moved his hand up to fondle one of her breasts whilst he licked the other one.
He could feel her wetness as his hardened member pushed against her. The sound of her moans only made him even more excited as he continued fondling her breast. Giving a final wet slithering of his tongue around her nipple he moved back. His hands moved to the side of Sakura’s shorts as he slowly began to pull them off. His desire grew more as he discarded the last piece of her clothing revealing all her womanly features.
Sakura looked at him with a blush across her face, the feeling of ecstasy still present. She spoke in a sultry voice attempting to tease him, “What? Do I look that nice?”
Naruto realised the familiarity of the phrase as he leaned in towards her. Their eyes locked as they were closer than ever before. Gazing into her enthralling eyes, he gave a soft reply, “No…not just nice…you’re beautiful.”
She gave him a smile pulling him in for another wet kiss. As their mouths sparkled with enjoyment her hand moved to his member. Naruto gave a growl as she stroked him while at the same time keeping him busy with her tongue. His own hands moved towards the last piece of apparel he had on removing them as quickly as he could.
He looked at her before giving a final kiss, “Are you ready?”
Sakura nodded as Naruto moved in between her legs. Placing his member at her entrance he pushed, only entering the tip. Sakura gasped in momentary pain as her hands tightened on the bed sheets. Naruto quickly grew concerned over her reaction, “Are you alright Sakura-chan?”
Sakura smiled before moving her hands to his neck. “Hai.”
Naruto began to slowly move as he felt the warm feeling of being inside her. The wetness as well as the tightness proceeded to make him even hungrier as he felt an unmatchable wave of ecstasy build within him. Sakura felt the initial pain leave her being replaced with a growing feeling of pleasure. She wrapped her legs around his sweating body. His thrusts into her gave her mounting elation as she moaned. Her hands held his hair tightly as she felt herself become lost in the feeling of bliss.
Naruto aroused by her moans and confident that she had become accustomed to his size increased the pace of his thrusts. He kept entering her repeatedly before Sakura rose from on her back.
The kunoichi pushed him onto his back placing her hands on his stomach as she thrust herself onto his member. Growing even more daring with each grinding of his hips, she came down onto him hardly pushing his hardened figure fully into her. She moaned loudly with reverberating satisfaction as Naruto brushed her hands away making her fall towards him.
Sakura quickly supported herself by placing her hands above his head. Naruto’s mouth cupped her dangling breast as his hands moved to her toned rear. Sakura continued thrusting onto him as he caressed her backside. Naruto could feel himself nearing his climax. He bit down on her luscious breast causing her to scream in approval.
Sakura’s walls tightened around his large member as she felt herself reaching her limit. Each thrust increased the amount of ecstasy they were feeling as their sweaty bodies reached their maximum. Naruto removed his mouth from Sakura’s breast as his hardened member felt like it was about to explode. Sakura moved back giving a final thrust as they both erupted within each other sending a riveting feeling of pure heaven throughout them. Sakura moaned loudly as she convulsed around Naruto’s member. The orgasm was nothing like they had ever experienced, Sakura fell forwards as Naruto quickly grabbed her.
They stared into each others eyes, their sweat covered bodies glistening due to the moonlight seeping through the window. Naruto smiled as his eyes showed the love and care he felt for the girl with whom he had connected. Sakura moved down giving him a kiss as she took sanctuary in his embrace. Her eyes slowly closed as she relished the warmth of being together with him. Drifting into slumber along with the blonde shinobi, one thought was running through her mind, ‘I’ll find a way…I promise you.’

Chapter 16: Blazing Youth
Naruto slowly opened his eyes as the sun shone brightly through his bedroom window. His vision focusing; he realised that he wasn’t alone in his small bed. Looking down he saw a head with pink hair resting against his chest. Memories from the previous night flushed his mind as his face acquired a tinge of red. The minutes passed as he continued staring at the kunoichi who was wrapped tightly around him under the blankets. A smile was across his face as he felt relatively peaceful inside.
He diverted his attention from the girl, staring at the ceiling as he began to think of where he could train for the day. Due to his bout with Jiraiya his current training ground was going to be unfit for use for at least another 2 days. He was broken from his thoughts as he felt the kunoichi stir.
Sakura awoke into consciousness becoming aware of her surroundings. Her head was resting on something hard as she relished the warmth she was receiving. Her eyes shot open in realisation noticing the body she was lying on. Lifting her head her eyes came into contact with a sapphire colour gazing right back at her.
Naruto gave the kunoichi a foxy grin, “Finally woke up, huh?”
Sakura rose oblivious to her undressed state replying, “Hai…”
Naruto looked away as he felt a nose bleed beginning, “Uh…Sakura-chan, not that it really matters anymore but…” He stopped to point at her naked state.
Sakura quickly realised his implication, their night of passion replaying in her mind. She moved back sitting next to Naruto putting the blanket over herself. She moved inwards to Naruto deciding to tease him, “What’s the matter…can’t contain yourself?”
Naruto gave an awkward laugh shaking his head, “I’m just not used to these types of things.”
Sakura looked at Naruto who was calmly staring through the window at the village outside. His revelation from the previous night quickly clogged her thoughts as she began to understand how serious things were. She knew time was of the essence and she wanted to find out anything possible to be able to help.
Naruto tapped his chin as he began to speak, “Sakura-chan.”
Sakura turned to the blonde upon being addressed, “Hm?”
Naruto continued in a contemplative tone, “Aren’t the chuunin exams starting today?”
Sakura eyes widened as she realised the genin was indeed right. She looked through the window as the sun was quite high in the sky, “I think they’ve already started.”
Naruto looked at his clock, it was late in the morning, “You’re a chuunin right? Won’t they need you?”
Sakura nodded her head but her mind wasn’t currently on whether she had to be at the exams, “They do but…”
Naruto placed his hands behind him before tilting his head in Sakura’s direction, “But what?”
Sakura sighed, “But first…I want you to tell me…” The jinchuuriki raised an eyebrow before the medic continued, “…everything about your condition.”
Sasuke observed all the genin preoccupied with their written exam, with keen eyes, as he tried to locate the ones obviously cheating. He was one of many people seated on the side, who were overlooking the written exam. The sharingan wielder noticed a boy attempting to take a look at the paper of the girl next to her. Instantly, he threw a kunai which landed on the desk startling the boy as well as others seated around him. He didn’t say anything instead staring with an intimidating look. The genin rose from his position with his team mates before leaving the classroom.
The black haired teen’s mind was still in disarray from the previous night. His encounter with Naruto was deeply engraved in his thoughts and he could remember every detail of it. He shook his head in order to rid himself of any drowsiness as he hadn’t been able to sleep at all during the night. He found it difficult to remain on task with so many issues dominating his thoughts. He still didn’t know why Naruto was training so much especially if he had such little time left. However the one thing he still couldn’t come to terms with, was the fact that Naruto was gong to die. Scanning through the crowd of examinees he drew two kunai, throwing them to the desks of a few more genin he had caught.
Watching them leave, he knew that his presence as a proctor was unfair since he could easily see how the majority of the class was attempting to cheat. He singled out those whose methods of information gathering were not up to a sufficient degree. Feeling himself being watched, he turned to the front of the classroom and into the eyes of Nara Shikamaru.
Shikamaru diverted his concentration elsewhere upon being noticed. He could sense the lingering eyes of the Uchiha on him. He coughed as he kept his lazy demeanour, staring at the participants of the exam. The number of people left had been drastically reduced mainly due to Sasuke. The exam had started with over 40 teams but they were now down to only 13. His mind quickly left the genins taking the exam and started to analyse the actions of the Uchiha.
He was indifferent to the sharingan wielder. The retrieval mission of Sasuke from 3 years prior was something he wouldn’t forget anytime soon. He had almost lost his best friend as well as coming close to being killed himself. He wasn’t concerned that Sasuke returned after his betrayal because it had ultimately bought calm to Naruto, who he saw as a friend. Even though most people couldn’t realise, he knew the blonde was finally happy that he had returned his best friend.
Nonetheless something about Naruto’s recent behaviour had made him suspicious of what was going on. The mission to defeat Orochimaru was something that he could explicitly remember. It was his second time crossing paths with Akatsuki and the first time he had seen the legendary snake sannin. His mind loitered on the notorious organisation whose motives were unknown to him. It was apparent on that day that they were there to kill Orochimaru but when they realised the presence of Naruto, they wanted to capture him as well.
He didn’t know what made the S-class criminals want to capture his friend but he thought it might be to do with his transformation. The frightening sight of Naruto once he had undergone that radical change made him freeze with shock. The power he had seen being radiated was amazing but the most disturbing thing was that the chakra surrounding him gave a menacing vibe. He quickly glanced at Sasuke to see that he was once again resuming his duties.
Shikamaru knew that the Uchiha was being bothered by something. He had never seen Sasuke seem so troubled. His mind analysed the recent events with Naruto as well as the uneasy presence of Sasuke. He couldn’t help but feel that they were connected in some shape or form. He needed some more evidence in order to be completely sure of his speculation.
Naruto and Sakura walked towards the Hokage tower. He had told her everything about his condition as well as the amount of time he had remaining. After having gotten cleaned up and getting something to eat, he decided to go with Sakura to see Tsunade since there was a possibility of him getting a training ground which was out of the way.
He had his hands behind his head as he walked side by side with the kunoichi. Sakura had a neutral expression on her face but she was inwardly trying to think of anyway to solve Naruto’s problem.
They continued walking until they saw three figures heading towards them in the distance. Naruto voiced his thoughts, “Who’s that?”
Sakura looked closer as she could make out the boy in the middle waving at them. She couldn’t believe they couldn’t tell who it was since the large white dog was a dead giveaway.
Naruto took a step back as he realised a rushing white blur heading for him. “Woah…wait.” He put his hands out as Akamaru stopped immediately in front of him.
Kiba jumped off the back of his companion as his team mates caught up to him. Looking at the blonde, he gave a greeting, “Oi, Naruto. Where have you been, eh? You should keep in contact with your friends.”
Hinata gave a short bow to the 2 shinobi, with a red face, “G…good to see you…N…Naruto-kun, Sakura-san.” Shino merely gave a nod acknowledging their presence.
Naruto patted Akamaru’s head as the dog enjoyed the feeling, “Gomen, I don’t get much time these days.”
Kiba not really understanding what he meant looked at Sakura to his side. A grin formed across his face, “So, looks like you’ve finally hooked up.” He rubbed his nose trying to get a rise out of the jinchuuriki.
Hinata gave a small gasp believing the words of the dog user. Shino turned to Kiba, speaking, “Kiba, this mission is time based. We should get going.”
Kiba waved off the bug user, “I know. We can spare a few minutes.”
Shino looked nonchalant behind his hood and glasses, “No, we can’t.”
Kiba ignored the Aburame and was about to tease the blonde again before he realised a red mark on Sakura’s neck. He pointed realising the obvious bite mark, “Wait…you really have hooked up.”
Naruto had a smirk across his face whereas Sakura had a blush across hers before pulling up her vest as much as she could, to cover up the tell tale sign. Hinata looked at the couple understanding that they had actually gotten together as well as the bite mark, a sign of their intimacy. She could feel herself becoming light headed before falling backwards, fainting from the shock.
Kiba quickly caught the Hyuuga stopping her from making contact with the ground. Naruto was surprised with what was happening, “Hinata.”
Kiba gave a laugh, “Don’t worry she’ll be fine.”
Naruto sighed oblivious as to why she fainted. Shino stood indifferent to the odd occurrence before speaking, “Kiba, need I remind you…”
Kiba, struggling to place Hinata on Akamaru’s back properly, quickly answered interrupting him from finishing, “I know.”
Shino remained calm as he watched alongside with Naruto and Sakura. Kiba, finally having appropriately positioned Hinata, realised his dog’s awkward demeanour. Akamaru was looking at Naruto intently with disturbed eyes before he gave out a whimper, “What’s wrong Akamaru?”
Naruto looked at the dog who was staring at him. He sweated knowing that this was bad. Moving down he stroked Akamaru’s fur, “Don’t worry. I’m going to be fine.”
Kiba had a raised eyebrow questioning the genin, “Eh? What are you talking about?”
Naruto grabbed Sakura walking past their friends. Looking back he gave a wave, “It’s nothing. We should get going; you don’t want Shino reminding you again.”
Shino felt a sting at the remark but stood with a calm manner. Kiba scratched the back of his head, “That’s weird. Come on, it’s time to leave.”
Shino looked at his friend take off with Akamaru following. Turning back towards Naruto’s direction, he saw him nearing the Hokage tower. He wasn’t used to seeing Akamaru act in such behaviour, but when he did then there was a cause for concern. Shrugging it off for later he went in the direction of his team mates.
Deidara jumped through the trees at an incredible pace, he could see the end of the forest approaching. The Akatsuki members were currently travelling through the Country of Grass.
Tobi who was trailing behind, and quite tired, quickly spoke, “Hey, Sempai, can’t we use that “thing” to fly.” He was referring to the bird made of clay.
Deidara looked back towards the orange masked man, “That “thing” takes a lot of chakra. Your legs are there for a damn reason yeah.” The annoyance was evident by his speech.
Tobi sighed before pushing himself to catch up with his partner, “We’ve been running for a full day non-stop. We didn’t even get time to recover from the fight with the Rokubi.”
Deidara ignored the newest member’s pleas staring straight ahead. “Stop complaining yeah.”
Tobi tried again, “Why are you in such a rush anyway? We’ve got 4 weeks until the chuunin exam finals. There’s plenty of time.”
Deidara shook his head, “There isn’t plenty of time. We’ve only extracted the Schichibi. There’s still the Rokubi and the Hachibi left yeah.”
Tobi scratched his head, “I know but Zetsu-sempai took the Rokubi from us yesterday. He’ll be back at the base tomorrow and the Hachibi’s been collected as well. Both the extractions together would only take around 6 days which still leaves us with 3 weeks.” Tobi looked around before noticing something, “And I think we’re going the opposite way from Konoha.”
Deidara felt his anger build upon having the mask wearing member make such a detailed analysis. He was also a little perturbed as to the fact the normally idiotic criminal had seen through his lie rather quickly. Waving a hand at his partner he spoke, “We are going the opposite way. I thought we should head to the Country of Waterfall. We’ll get some rest and relax for a bit before heading for Konoha.”
Tobi’s mood brightened however unfortunately due to his tiredness he ended up falling over the next branch and to the hard ground below, face first. Deidara landed next to his partner now having exited the forest. “Get up you idiot.”
Tobi rolled onto his back, “I can’t go on.”
Deidara began to become irritated but knew that he was exhausted. The blonde criminal was feeling tired himself but he wanted to reach the Country of Waterfall by the end of the day. He kicked the lying Tobi in his side, “The hell you can’t yeah.”
Tobi cringed from the swift kick, “Why can’t we rest here for a bit?”
Deidara walked towards the river staring at the various stones pointing out, “We have to get to our destination by the end of today.”
Tobi sat up rubbing his side, “Sempai, what’s so important that we have to get there this urgently?”
Deidara was fractious by the amount of questions his partner was asking but he knew that he would have to answer. Coughing he replied in a barely audible voice, “There’s a…art exhibition taking place…” A smirk was across his face before he finished, “…the explosive kind yeah.”
Tobi was confused as to what to think, “Huh? That’s it?”
Deidara glared with anger in his eyes, “The hell? Stop pissing me off yeah.”
Tobi was surprised as Deidara suddenly jumped at him grabbing his cloak. The art appreciating criminal began to drag his partner through the river making him bounce off the various rocks. Tobi quickly protested, “Gomen, I didn’t mean it. I’m not tired…I can go by myself.” His leg grazed the rock as his cloak was soaked, “Ahhhhhhhh.”
Tsunade rubbed her head as she looked through her paperwork. She began to stamp the papers approving of what she read. She heard a knock on the door before looking up. She heard a voice behind it, “Tsunade-shisou, can we…”
The voice was interrupted from finishing as the door flew open revealing Naruto and Sakura. Naruto walked into the office ignorant of the death glare he was receiving from the Hokage, “There’s no need to be so formal Sakura-chan.”
Sakura walked in knowing full well of Tsunade’s tendency to become irritated when she wasn’t treated with the proper respect. She slapped Naruto’s head, “Baka! She’s the Hokage!”
Naruto laughed, “She’s just Tsunade-baachan.”
Tsunade’s eye twitched with anger upon being referred to like that, “What are you doing here Naruto?”
Naruto walked near the desk, “I wanted a training ground, since Ero-sennin’s kind of ruined mine for the time being.”
Tsunade looked at him quizzically before leaning back in her chair. She began to think of a suitable way to help him. After a few minutes she pulled out a piece of paper from her desk and began to draw on it.
Sakura and Naruto leaned forward curious as to what she was doing. They saw her scribbling on the previously blank piece of paper before looking up satisfied with her work. Naruto tilted his head trying to understand what she had drawn.
Tsunade spoke as the attention of the two ninjas was directed towards her, “As you know the chuunin exams have started today. The exam is split into three stages, the written test, the survival test and finally the main tournament.”
Naruto folded his arms, “What does this have to do with me?”
Tsunade smirked, “The written test will probably be finishing soon. The survival test is next. This time, we’re going to utilize a test that hasn’t been ever been used before and was created by one of Konoha’s jounin.” She pointed at the genin, “You’re going to be one of the examiners.”
Sakura had to stop herself from falling over as Naruto stumbled, “Nani? What does that have to do with me getting a training ground?”
Tsunade shook her head, “The location for the test is training area 56 or in other words…” She paused before continuing, “The Land of Doom.”
Naruto’s eyes widened, “What is it with these names, Forest of Death and Land of Doom? Why can’t you pick normal names?” Naruto finished staring at the busty Hokage.
Tsunade coughed, “The creator of the test wanted to call it…the Land of Blazing Youth but I didn’t think it was appropriate. Anyways, you’ll meet him soon enough since he’s the one who is the main examiner for the survival test.”
Naruto was at a loss for words since he still didn’t see how this solved his problem. Tsunade recognised the confusion etched across his face, “Baka! You wanted a place to train and I gave you one!”
Naruto stroked his chin realising that he would have a lot of space to train. However something else entered his thoughts as he smiled, “Sugoi, I’m the first genin ever to examine a chuunin test.” He began to laugh.
Tsunade sighed, “Actually, you’re not.”
Naruto stopped his laughing, “Nani?”
Tsunade rested her chin on her hands, “Sasuke is.” She ignored the stunned Uzumaki, “Since he can’t take the chuunin exams until his punishment is completed, I put him as an examiner in the written test. There was nothing else for him to do.”
Tsunade handed Naruto the piece of paper on her desk, “This is a map of the area you’re going to be in for the next 5 days. Head for the academy and you can go with everybody to the training area at once.”
Naruto glanced at the paper before bursting out, “You just drew this.” He paused before shouting again, “And I can’t understand this.”
Sakura laughed at the Kyuubi vessel as Tsunade looked displeased. “Stop complaining brat. You’re too stupid to understand a real map so I made it easier for you.”
Naruto pouted before turning to leave, “Fine.” He gave Sakura a smile, “I’ll see you in 5 days.”
Sakura stopped him from leaving and gave him a kiss. Naruto, initially surprised, relaxed into it before finishing. Tsunade watched the two happily knowing that they had sorted out their differences.
Naruto separated before coughing, "Laters.”
He walked outside of the office with a shade of red on his face. Sakura turned towards the Hokage who had a grin across her visage. Tsunade spoke in a joking tone, “I see things turned out well, huh?”
Sakura nodded blushing, “Hai.” Her face changed to a more serious expression, “Tsunade-shisou, I wanted permission to use your personal library.”
Tsunade raised an eyebrow at her request, “I see, so he’s told you.” She looked at the unresponsive form of the kunoichi taking it as a confirmation, “You have an idea then?”
Sakura replied in an analytical manner, “At first I thought that we could do an operation to fix his chakra coils. But his whole body has been damaged internally. To do such an operation, it would take over 15 hours.” Tsunade nodded proud of her apprentice’s diagnostic ability, “The real problem is that we would have to operate when the Kyuubi is not feeding him chakra however if he stops then Naruto would die within the hour. Thus we can’t do that.”
Tsunade let out a sad sigh since she already knew of this. Sakura continued, “But something Naruto said intrigued me.” The Godaime looked at her apprentice, “The seal he has was meant to slowly merge his and the Kyuubi’s chakra. Kyuubi could heal him but his body can’t withstand too much of his chakra at its current state.”
Tsunade smiled realising where she was going with this, “So if we were to somehow boost the growth of his coils to their fully matured state then the Kyuubi could simply heal him completely.”
Sakura answered, “Hai.”
Tsunade began to think deeply into the matter. She rested her elbows on the desk before speaking, “Something like this is unprecedented. It is also highly unlikely to be possible but…” She smiled as she realised, “There is still a small chance it could work.”
Sakura felt her mood brighten knowing that there was a possibility. Her determination was as strong as ever and her hope had amplified.
Naruto walked through the corridors of the academy bringing back past memories. He had taken a detour home to pick up some scrolls that he needed for training before eventually heading for the academy. Walking through the final corridor he came across a familiar set of doors. He had taken his own written exam in the same location.
Opening the doors he walked into the large classroom as everyone directed their attention towards him. From what he could see, there were less than 10 teams remaining. The doors shut behind him as he looked to the opposite side at the seated proctors, he found Sasuke with his attention on him. The troubled state of the Uchiha was clearly visible; Naruto noticing it adopted a smile and gave him a wave.
Directing his attention to the genins remaining, he was relieved to find the Konohamaru corps still seated and in the case of their leader a merry expression across his face. Scratching the back of his head, he greeted everyone, “Heh heh, how’s it going?”
Sasuke looked at the optimistic blonde. He could feel his insides becoming distressed with the demeanour his friend was displaying. Ignoring everything else in the room, his attention was solely focused on the jinchuuriki. He knew that Naruto was bothered by what he was going through evident by their encounter the day before. However he didn’t understand why he was acting overly happy around others.
Shikamaru, inwardly confused by Naruto’s unexpected appearance, kept his lazy posture. Glancing around the room his eyes fixed on Sasuke who, visibly, seemed upset upon seeing Naruto. His previous speculation was proved correct as he realised that the Uchiha’s state was connected to Naruto. He began to dwell on his thoughts, thinking of what could be happening with Naruto that would make the unflinching sharingan wielder show any signs of disturbance.
He was broken from his trance as Naruto addressed him, “Oi, Shikamaru. What’s going on, have you finished?”
Shikamaru turned to the genin, “Yeah, we’re waiting for the second examiner. What are you doing here?”
Naruto grinned but was interrupted from speaking as a yell of “Dynamic Entry” filled the air. The doors behind Naruto blasted open making contact with the unsuspecting vessel sending him rolling across the floor.
Naruto sat up rubbing his back as his vision was blinded by green. In front of him stood the unfathomable Maito Gai with his hands on his hips and his trademark smile. The participants in the room sweat dropped upon seeing the awkward display in front of them whereas Naruto seethed with anger.
Gai spoke, unaware of what he had done, “The time has come, for I Maito Gai, to see…”
He was stopped from finishing as a wooden piece, of the now broken entrance doors, connected with his head. “At least apologise.”
Gai rubbed his head before facing the standing offensive leaf-nin. His eyes widened as he saw Naruto glaring at him, “The youthful shinobi that is Naruto, what are you doing here?”
Naruto shouted at the jounin, “I was going to say what I was doing here until you broke that door on my back.”
Gai gave a nervous laugh at the accusing teen, “Gomen. But, we must not let such little things take away from our prideful selves.”
Naruto ignored him before turning to Shikamaru. Gai nearly fell over as he saw the disregard for his comments shown by the ninja, “CURSE YOU KAKASHI! YOU HAVE PASSED ON YOUR HIP WAYS TO YOUR STUDENTS!”
Naruto talked to the shadow user, “Like I was about to say, I‘m a proctor for the second exam.”
Shikamaru lost his usual demeanour upon hearing that as Gai stopped with his animated rant. The green spandex wearing jounin swiftly spoke with a loud voice, “I see, so you are the youthful third examiner for my brilliant creation.”
Naruto instantly faced the taijutsu specialist, “Nani? Your crea…wait, you’re the main examiner.”
Gai gave a thumbs up followed by a sparkling smile, “Of course.”
Naruto was left speechless as Gai walked past him to address the whole of the class. “The remaining genin in this room are the ones who have passed onto the second stage. This first test assessed your information gathering skills and how effective they are.” He pointed his finger out at the participants, “But this next exam will determine who truly possesses the passion to ascend to the next level of ninja and maybe one day become as youthful as even I.” He pointed at himself with his thumb upon finishing and gave a smile.
Naruto had to stop himself from faltering as Konohamaru began to speak, “What’s the point of the second test.”
Gai laughed before answering the Sarutobi’s question, “A brilliant question. It is simple, for the next 5 days you are going to survive in a dangerous environment without any outside assistance and your objective is…” He pulled out three scrolls from his pouch holding them up for everyone to see, “…to obtain a scroll from one of the three examiners. Whoever still has a scroll at the end of 5 days, proceeds to the final test.”
Everybody listened intently as the jounin continued in a serious manner, “This test will pit you against other ninja, and in the case of some of you, against your fellow leaf comrades. You are ninja however do not kill each other meaninglessly. Hopefully you will take this advice to heart.”
Naruto listened to the taijutsu specialist impressed with his words. Gai nodded to Shikamaru as a signal to begin handing out forms which would take the responsibility off the Hokage if any of the shinobis were to die. Walking to Naruto he gave him a scroll, “Your task is to protect this scroll from falling in their hands. If they are able to retrieve the scroll from you then you’re not allowed to try and get it back. How you decide to test these candidates is entirely up to you. They don’t necessarily have to defeat you.” Naruto nodded pocketing the scroll.
Naruto felt proud of having such a responsibility upon his shoulders. A smile was across his face as Gai began to speak, “Follow me, to our destination where the strength of your inner passion will be determined. Let us go to the Land of Blazing Youth.” He gave a sparkling smile.
Naruto raised an eyebrow at the last statement, “Eh? Isn’t it meant to be the Land of Doom?”
Gai laughed nervously, “...Yeah…it is.”
Naruto ignored the weird jounin as his insides buzzed with excitement. He knew that the next 5 days were going to be interesting.

Chapter 17: Enigmatic Challenge
A day had passed since the beginning of the survival test. Naruto wiped the sweat from his forehead as the rest of his clones continued working. He didn’t want to draw attention to his location hence having produced only 100 clones, half of which were working on the Hiraishin No Jutsu and the rest practicing the elemental techniques he knew. Falling back on the grass below him, he took out the map that Tsunade gave him. Unfolding the paper, he looked at the basic map.
It was drawn very simply, a round circle wherein there were pictures illustrating various landmarks. There were, all together 15 entrances, and the examiners were allowed a head start of 5 minutes. At the top there was a river which headed straight through from North to South however it broke off into three parts when it reached the middle. To the top right was a picture of a canyon and bridge surrounded by what looked like poorly drawn traps. The top left; there was a picture of a bamboo forest. The rest of the area was covered in a traditional forest with trees that were over 30 metres in height. Naruto’s attention drifted to the bottom right of the map where he had drawn a picture of himself with the victory sign to signify his position.
The map, although undemanding, had taken him half of the previous day to understand fully. His position was quite comfortable as he chose to set camp near one of the three forks of the river. He knew it wasn’t wise to have a set base for where to live but he was confident of the defence he had built. Staying near a river was an ideal choice since most ninjas wouldn’t bother checking those areas believing no one to be stupid enough to situate there. Naruto inwardly smiled at his psychological tactic.
He rose from his seat and walked to the river, washing his face. Having freshened up he decided to check out the genin teams. He hadn’t encountered anyone since he had been here and thought it would be an excellent idea to see how good the teams were. He was also curious to see what the Konohamaru corps were doing. As far as he knew, there were 7 teams and 3 examiners in the training area. He was one of the examiners as well as Gai but he didn’t know the identity of the remaining one since he was late to the start of the exam.
Naruto stretched his muscles, proud to find that the gravity seal wasn’t a problem anymore. He wasn’t capable of fighting at his maximum capability but he was still superior to most jounins in speed. He began to run but stopped abruptly as a fireball passed in front of him, missing him by inches. He turned to his left, an angry expression on his face, “Baka! Watch what you’re doing!”
The clone scratched the back of his head upon being reprimanded, “Gomen.”
Naruto shook his head, leaving the clones to their training, as he left the clearing.
Gai ran through the canyon making sure to avoid any traps. He was being pursued by a team of rain-nin. The enigmatic jounin had decided to test the teams in various ways. Currently he wanted to see how good their tracking skills were. He had enjoyed his time so far immensely finding himself to be enthusiastic as well as passionate towards his work.
He ran closer to the side of the canyon before jumping on the rugged rock and making his way upwards to the top. The canyon was extremely dry covered completely in hard rock and the surface was boiling after having the sun shine on it for so long.
Gai flipped to the side making sure to stick with his chakra as a kunai flew past him. He looked at the three shinobi at the base of the canyon, all intently staring at him, “Your tracking skills are strong however you will have to do a lot better if you want to obtain a scroll from the master of youth.” He smiled giving a sparkle which added to the effect of the already blinding sun.
Turning he began to run straight to the top as the genin team began to chase him. Avoiding the numerous shuriken he jumped to his right, straight at one of the genins, before delivering a swift kick to his abdomen sending him to the canyon floor. Gai quickly grabbed the side of the canyon before beginning to run up it once again, laughing, “No one is as youthful as I! No one!”
Naruto jumped through the dense forest swiftly, making sure that his movements made as little sound as possible. He kept an eye on his surroundings to locate any signs of a genin team. As he jumped onto a branch he stopped. He pulled out the kunai which was embedded into the thick wood.
Examining it, he realised that the kunai had just recently been used. He smiled before looking around at the vegetation for any more signs. As he scanned the area he found an explosive tag attached to one of the trees across from him as well as a thin piece of string a few feet ahead of him.
He threw the kunai, which he had acquired moments ago, at the piece of string cutting it. Instantly a thick log flew past him into the tree with the explosive note attached resulting in a deafening explosion. Naruto jumped out of the way as the tree had a domino effect making a few more trees collapse along with it including the one he was standing on.
Landing on the ground, he sighed since he would’ve jumped into the path of the trap if he hadn’t stopped. “That was close.” He was broken from his musings as he turned to catch three shuriken in his hand. Quickly flipping to the side he threw the shuriken back in the direction where they came from.
He heard two thuds before a muffled gasp followed by the sound of splattering. He focused himself since he knew that he wasn’t alone, “It’s no point in hiding. You gave away your position with your attack.”
Waiting a few moments he heard rustling as three ninja appeared around him, one of them was injured. Naruto’s eyes threatened to fall out as he stared at the attackers who had unveiled themselves. He couldn’t believe that he had not recognised their presence in the written exam since they seemed to stick out clearly. Collecting himself he spoke, “Are you genins?”
The three shinobi looked at him quizzically before the leader of the team spoke, “Of course. What makes you think we aren’t?”
Naruto coughed as he replied, “You look a little old to be genin.”
He stared at the leaf-nin who were all visibly very old compared to the other participants in the exam. The leader of the team was dressed in brown trousers and a white shirt. He covered it up with a green tie and sleeveless sweater. The most distinguishing features were his glasses as well as his thick moustache. He spoke in a calm voice, “My name is Akamon Manabu, I am 41 years old.”
Naruto’s mouth fell on the floor, “41 years old!”
Manabu straightened his forehead protector which he was wearing on his head, “Yes.”
Naruto shook his head, “How long have you been taking this exam?”
The older shinobi replied in a matured voice, “I am a 21 year veteran of the chuunin exam.”
Naruto felt his heart rate increase not believing the amount of shock he was going through, “You haven’t passed in 21 years!”
Manabu closed his eyes pushing his glasses upwards, “This isn’t the first time we have met. I was also a part of the chuunin exam three years ago which you took.”
Naruto scratched the back of his head, “You were?”
Manabu nodded, “You were the loudest ninja there.”
Naruto raised an eyebrow at what he was assuming was an insult. “Is that so?” Inwardly he knew that it was true.
Manabu got into a battle stance, “You weren’t who we were after but your scroll is as good as any.”
Naruto looked at the three shinobi who slowly began to circle him. He remained calm as they each threw a kunai at him. Ducking, he let all the kunai pass him overhead, before jumping to his left and delivering a swift kick to one of the genins making him lose his balance. Quickly taking advantage, he drew his own kunai before grabbing the older shinobi and holding his weapon to his neck.
Naruto looked past his hostage at Manabu and the other remaining genin. “Your biggest mistake was revealing yourselves at the beginning. It is obvious that the examiners weren’t going to be easy to beat head on. You should have kept the element of surprise since I’m far stronger than you.”
Manabu smirked before speaking, “That hostage does you no good. You wouldn’t kill him.”
Naruto loosened his grip bringing his kunai back, “You’re right.” He delivered a hard elbow to the neck of the unsuspecting genin knocking him out instantaneously. “But I am going to kick your asses.”
The unconscious leaf-nin fell to the ground. As his body impacted Naruto disappeared from his position appearing next to Manabu and his comrade holding a kunai to each of their necks. “21 years and you still haven’t learned not to drop your guard.” He turned his kunais the opposite way showing the blunt ends before hitting both the remaining shinobi hardly in their heads.
Naruto saw the genin lose consciousness as he put his kunai back into his pouch. He folded his arms smiling, “I must have looked so cool.” He quickly turned realising another presence. His eyes widened as he looked at a familiar jounin sitting on a tree branch with his precious orange book in his hand, “Kakashi-sensei? What are you doing here?”
The Konohamaru corps had spent the last hour roaming the bamboo forest which they were now regretting entering. Udon walked forwards moving the bamboo tree out of his way. “I think we’re back where we started.”
Konohamaru instantly stopped in his tracks. He turned, pointing at his glasses wearing friend, “Kuso…we’ve been going in circles for…for…I don’t know but you’re supposed to be good at these things.”
Udon pushed up his glasses, “This forest is like a maze. It’s hard to understand where to go.” They could go straight however they found that the forest would get extremely dense if you continued in one direction. It seemed as if it was deliberately set up to test their navigational skills.
Moegi played with her hair, “Konohamaru-kun, don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll get out of here.”
The Sarutobi ignored the girl before sitting down, “At this rate, we’ll have to fight one of the other teams to get a scroll.” He punched the ground, “I wanted to fight Naruto-niichan.”
Udon folded his arms, “I don’t think we have to worry about fighting other teams. It seems that the specific reason for us to try and acquire a scroll from one of the examiners is to see whether we really have the potential to be chuunins.”
Konohamaru looked at the glasses wearing genin, “Baka! What if all the teams in here have the potential? We’ll have to fight them then wouldn’t we?”
Moegi began to think, “I’m not sure everyone could have the potential. And why is Naruto-niichan an examiner? I think he became one to test us.”
Konohamaru slapped his head, “Of course! It’s the job of the examiners to test us!”
Udon shook his head disagreeing with their team leader, “I think Moegi means that Naruto specifically wants to test us. It is weird for another genin to be an examiner isn’t it?”
Konohamaru looked around whilst thinking over their words. He got to his feet throwing his long blue scarf around him, “Hey, I think you’re right. There’s no way Naruto-niichan would pass anyone else. If anybody’s going to get his scroll, it’s going to be us.”
Pulling out a kunai the Sarutobi walked to the bamboo tree before slashing at it and making it fall. Udon looked at the genin with curiosity, “What are you doing?”
Konohamaru rubbed his nose, “I’m going straight through this damn forest. And I don’t care if I have to take down half of it with me.”
He cut a few more trees making them fall in different directions. Jumping over them he began to slash as many trees as he could. His arm was beginning to ache, “Udon, Moegi! Stop standing there and help out!” He never got a response.
The genin turned to find his friends looking at something which he couldn’t see due to some fallen trees obstructing his view. Walking over towards them, he wanted to see what had caught their attention. His eyes widened as he saw three leaf-nin tied up and unconscious. “Nani?”
Udon turned to his friend, “I’m guessing they encountered one of the examiners.”
Konohamaru scratched his head, “We should take advantage of this.”
Moegi raised an eyebrow as she looked at the team leader questioningly, “Eh?”
Konohamaru waved off the weird expressions of his friends, “We should see if they’ve got anything valuable that we could use. We’ll untie them after so they can make their own way out eventually.”
The three nodded before salvaging any useful items from the unconscious team.
Kakashi looked towards the blonde giving a small wave, “Yo,” He jumped off the branch to the ground before walking towards Naruto, still engrossed in his book, “I’m an examiner.”
Naruto was visibly confused, “They made you an examiner. A chuunin would have been enough.”
The ex-Anbu nodded, “You’re right but…Gai insisted that I take part.” The copy-nin turned a page in his book, “You know you’ve just knocked out the genin team I was planning on testing.”
Naruto scratched the back of his head, “Gomen…they did attack me first though.”
Kakashi looked up from his book with his one exposed eye, “That is true.” He looked at the unconscious leaf-nin, “If you continue like this, you’re not going to pass anyone.”
Naruto shook his head, “I’ve already got my sights set on a particular team. If I’m going to pass anyone, it’s going to be them.”
Kakashi turned his attention back to his book to continue reading, “I see.”
Naruto stared at the jounin, “What about you?”
Kakashi sighed before speaking, “Well, I came across two teams yesterday but I don’t think they were ready. A few hours ago I was in the canyon when a team of rain-nin began a fight with me. All was going well until Gai showed up.”
Naruto raised an eyebrow, “And?”
Kakashi stared intently at the pages of his mature novel, “Well he said something about the youthfulness of green spandex to them. I wasn’t really listening but soon after the rain-nin began to chase him, leaving me to go find another team.”
Naruto laughed as he thought of the taijutsu specialist. He scratched his head, “Kakashi-sensei?”
Kakashi walked towards a tree before leaning against it, “Yeah?”
Naruto tapped his chin, “I was wondering why they didn’t use the Forest of Death like all the other times?”
Kakashi continued reading whilst he spoke, “The last time it was used, a lot of events occurred which were uncontrollable. Orochimaru’s interference was something that no one will ever forget. It was decided soon after Tsunade-sama became Hokage, that the survival test would have to change in order for us to have more direct control over what happens.”
Naruto clenched his teeth as he heard of the now dead sannin. He ignored his growing anger as Kakashi resumed speaking, “I think out of all the tests that we’ve used over the past two years, this one is the best. Having three examiners inside the testing area allows us to make sure everything is in order, as well as deciding who really has the potential to become a chuunin.”
Naruto was surprised to hear those words come from the masked mans mouth. He adopted a serious expression, “Gai-sensei deserves the credit he’ll receive for thinking of this.”
Kakashi nodded as both shinobi turned their attention towards the trees feeling a large chakra signature heading towards them. A few moments later a green blur jumped out of the trees landing in the middle of the small decimated clearing.
Gai smiled giving a vibrant sparkle, “Kakashi, my eternal rival, finally I have found you!” He noticed Naruto looking at him, “Ah! This is great! Naruto-kun is also here, this saves me a lot of time!”
Naruto didn’t understand what was going on whereas Kakashi wasn’t paying any attention. Both shinobi replied concurrently and obliviously, “Huh?”
The enigmatic Gai quickly recoiled, “WHY MUST YOU BE SO HIP!” Naruto stared at the taijutsu specialist as he slowly collected himself. Gai spoke in a sincere tone, “I have come to challenge both of you.”
Naruto fell over when he heard the eccentric jounin. Kakashi abandoned his position, walking towards the two shinobi, “I don’t think we have time to take challenges. We have a task to do.”
Gai folded his arms, “That is correct my youthful rival but this challenge relates to our duties as examiners.”
Naruto got up from the ground, dusting the dirt from his clothes, “What kind of challenge is it?”
Gai smiled before pointing at the two ninja, “Whoever holds onto their scroll the longest is the winner.”
Naruto brightened over the idea, “Sugoi…heh heh, I’ll leave you both in the ground.”
Kakashi gave a wave, “Sounds reasonable.”
Gai gave a thumbs up knowing they had accepted the idea. However, he stopped himself from leaving upon noticing the mature novel that Kakashi was reading. He quickly pointed at the recognisable book, “No! My eternal rival has resorted to reading such unbecoming books!”
Kakashi looked up from his book, “It’s quite good. You should read it.” He moved the book forward to the taijutsu specialist.
Gai couldn’t believe what he had just heard the sharingan user suggest. He gripped his hair with his hands, “OH MY GOD!”

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