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A Chance to Change

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"Hokage-sama?" Kakashi's voice broke my out of my trance. I sighed to myself as I gazed at the ruins that once was the proud Village Hidden in the Leaves. Konoha's fires still burned in the dawn that was threatening on the horizon. Glancing around the battlefield, my eyes found bodies I had never wanted to see. Ino, Kiba, Bushy-Brows, Neji, Ten-ten, Chouji, even Shikamaru, our best strategist and my long-time friend.

I looked back towards Kakashi. He had not changed much since the beginning of the war. His silver hair was still in a disarray, his Sharingan hidden behind his Hitai-ate while the infamous mask remained in place. His green jounin jacket remained, although torn and bloodstained.

"Kakashi-sensei, there is no village to defend. We are equals." I heard my voice in my ears but was too numb from the battle to register what I was saying.

"Then why do you still call me sensei, eh Naruto?" The jounin shook his head, trying to lighten the mood but finding it unmovable. I heard soft steps coming towards us and turned slowly, watching Sakura walk away from our temporary camp holding a small baby. As she grew older, Sakura had never lost her fascination with pink and red. She now wore a black skirt and fishnet stockings with black army boots. Her shirt was still a bright red, but covered with a mesh top, giving it a darker appearance. Her hair was still vivid pink, ending near her shoulders as it had when she was a chuunin, her Leaf Hitai-ate still holding the locks in place.

"Congrats, Naruto. It's a girl," Sakura murmured, trying not to wake the sleeping child, to no avail. The baby opened her pale lavender gray eyes, displaying the trait made famous by the Hyuuga clan, the kekkai genkai Byakugan. I smiled seeing her eyes, so similar to her mother's.

"How is Hinata-chan?"

"She will be fine Naruto, she just needs rest. It's good that we had some much warning before the attack… If we had been surprised, I'm sure she would have lost the child if not her life." Sakura took a breath and smiled at the little baby still lying in her arms. "What are you going to name her, Naruto?"

"Hinata-chan and I were thinking…" I mumbled, Kakashi, Sakura, and the world fading away as I focused on the baby girl, my newborn daughter. I smiled. "Hana."

"I need to go check on Hinata, she's pretty exhausted." Sakura all but shoved my daughter into my arms as she spun on her heel and strode back towards the healer's' tent. I smiled at my daughter before glancing up towards Kakashi.

"Hana, eh? Good name," he approved. I smirked lightly at the affectionate light in his eyes. As much as Kakashi could try to pretend he had no emotions, he could not perfect the act.

I turned my attention back to the newborn in my arms. Hana had inherited the wild blonde Namikaze hair, just like I had from my father. I smiled at the girl, she looked so much like Hinata-chan.

"Naruto-kun?" I heard a faint voice from the other side of the clearing and my head whipped up reflexively. I held the baby close as I ran towards the medical tent. I pushed the fabric aside and let myself inside. Hinata-chan was sitting up on a cot, I walked towards her side with a smile on my face.

"I'm here, Hinata-chan. How are you feeling?" I saw Sakura smile tiredly in the corner of my eye.

"Better, much better. Thank you again, Sakura-chan." Hinata-chan thanked Sakura wholeheartedly, causing Sakura to blush slightly.

"That's okay, Hinata-chan. I'm just glad you're okay. I'll need to keep you here for the next few days- if we're not attacked again, that is." Hinata nodded quickly and Sakura stretched before saying goodbye and leaving to check on another patient.

"Did you tell her yet, Naruto-kun?" Hinata-chan asked after a long pause. I shook my head before glancing in Sakura's direction. She was smiling over a woman, chatting away as her hands glowed with green light and she healed numerous cuts running along the villager's arms. "You're going to have to tell her eventually."

"Do we? We'll disappear, go back in time and change everything. This world will cease to exist, another future will be born. Hopefully a better one." I shuddered, hoping my words were true.

"I can't see one much better than this, Naruto-kun." She smiled brightly as she pulled our daughter to her chest. I smiled for a long second.

"Hopefully next time we can start a family without a war looming above our heads. Besides, if we can stop the Uchiha massacre, Sasuke-teme won't go looking for Orochimaru."

"I suppose… When did Kyuubi say we were leaving?" Hinata-chan spoke with such confidence, it always amazed me how she used to be such a shy and timid girl.

"He said as soon as you're ready to leave without raising suspicion. The cover story is we are going on a mission with Kakashi-sensei to investigate an abandoned Iwa base."

Hey Kit! That's not what I said! I told you to drag her-

I'm well aware of what you said, Kyuu. I just thought that saying that to a hormonal Hinata-chan would be a very bad idea. God, Hinata-chan's almost as bad as Sakura when we were all on Team 7.

Well hurry up! I told you and the girl, it would be easier to do this before the invasion got here. Now you've gone and depleted my chakra stores, chakra that just might save your life if something doesn't go exactly to plan!

What? There's a chance this won't work?

There's a chance everything might not work, baka! Go talk to your mate, you're annoying me.

Love you two, Kyuu.

Kyuubi muttered something intelligible before he severed the connection. Hinata-chan looked at me with worried eyes.

"What'd Kyuu say?"

"Not much, just that we should've left before the invasion. Same old, same old. He thinks it was a bad idea to wait around and use some of his chakra for the battle. He's just worrying again."

"You know, Naruto-kun, he is sealed inside of you. It might not be a bad idea to be a little friendly to him. After all, you're the only company he has, whether he wants it or not."

"I know, I know." Blah, blah, blah, OW!

"I know what you're thinking Naruto. I wouldn't do that again, if I were you." Hinata-chan raised her eyebrows, her fist still in the air, waiting to punch me again.

"I'm sorry… Love you?" I asked, uncertain if this was the answer she was looking for. Hinata smiled and lowered her fist back onto her lap.

"Love you too Naruto."


"Okay. You have your instructions and plans if something were to go amiss while we're gone. If that is all, I'd like to get started."

"Yes, Hokage-sama!" The various jounin and ANBU filed out of my tent just as Temari walked in.

"Temari, what a surprise!" And it was; her Leaf Hatai-ate was held in her fist and her eyes were watering slightly. I sighed, expecting this moment, dreading this moment. "You're leaving the Leaf, correct?" For a moment the woman looked stunned before she recovered and nodded once.

"Yes, Hokage-sama. It has been too long since I have seen Gaara and Kankuro. I-I don't even know if-"

"Temari. It's okay, I understand. You can go back to Suna, I wouldn't hold it personally. This isn't your village anymore, now that Shikamaru is- now that he's gone. You're free to leave, if anyone asks, you have already gotten my permission. Just- before you leave- do one thing for me?"

"Anything."

"Never call me Hokage-sama. I'm Naruto to you, and Gaara, and every single villager in both Konoha and Suna. It is an empty title now, I'm just another shinobi now. I'm not even sure if Hokage Mountain is still standing, let alone intact."

"Okay… Naruto."

"Thank you, Temari. Say hello to Gaara for me?"

"Sure thing. Goodbye Naruto. I'll see you soon." Temari left with a wave and a small, hopeful, smile. I watched her disappear out of sight before sighing. No, you won't.

I stood from my desk and stretched. Looking out of my tent, I saw an ANBU, still guarding the tent. I rolled my eyes, perfectly able of defending myself. I waved him over and instructed him to fetch Kakashi and Hinata. I could feel the ANBU's confusion, even behind his mask.

"Shino, I know it's you. Just go get them."

"Hai!" He vanished and soon returned with Kakashi, Hinata not far behind. I thanked him and sat back down at my desk, saved from the invasion. I propped my feet up and waited for Kakashi-sensei and Hinata-chan to sit down.

"I think we should leave today." As expected, the two before burst into questions and complaints on the timing, but I held firm. "Listen to me, both of you. If we wait around, there is a chance that Iwa will find us and I will need to use more of Kyuubi's power to drive them off. If that happens, we will need to wait again till he is at full strength. The time-traveling jutsu is extremely draining, even for a demon like-"

That's DEMON LORD, KIT!

"Shut up, Kyuu! I know your title!" I returned focus to the pair in front of my and flushed just a little, already embarrassed. Kakashi snickered and Hinata-chan smacked him on the arm. I cleared my throat and the two stopped playing around. "Come on, I'm going to need both of you uninjured. Hinata-chan, don't beat up Kakashi-sensei; Kakashi-sensei, don't pick a fight you can't win. Back to the plan: We're leaving today, deal with it. If I need to, I will pull rank," I raised an eyebrow, the corners of my mouth twitching into a smile. "We go under the ruse of a mission before we mysteriously disappear. The ANBU have instructions, but that shouldn't be needed. Once we're in the past, the future should automatically rewrite itself and this time will disappear."

"And what's keeping us from disappearing with it?" Hinata-chan asked.

"We are. The way Kyuu explained it, we basically just go back to when we were born, all of our memories and abilities intact but we will look like normal infants. Kakashi, Kyuu and I will mess with the jutsu a bit so you don't end up having to live you're entire life again, only the time where Hinata-chan and I overlap with yours. Before you ask, you cannot go back to save Obito. I'm sorry, but you're going to need your Sharingan when you're older.

"As I said, Hinata-chan and I will go back to when we were born. This means that I'll be around a few months before you, but a that shouldn't matter much. However, I'm orphaned. So you, Kakashi-sensei, are going to 'adopt' me, whatever the old man says. Just tell him that its because I'm your sensei's only son or something. He should buy that. After that, we just have to wait to make the right decisions at the right times and hope we don't screw up and end up killing someone important. Like Tsunade-baa-chan. That would not help anyone. Anything I missed?"

"Yeah… Since when am I adopting you?" Kakashi asked with a strange mix of anxiety and annoyance clashing in his mismatched eyes.

"Since I decided that if an ANBU captain is watching, people will be less likely to- I don't know, throw a kunai in my leg? 'Cause that really sucked the first time around. I'd rather not do that again."

"Okay… What about Sage-Mode? If I 'raise' you, Jiraiya might not take you in."

"Irrelevant. With the Demon Fox Summoning Scroll, kindly provided by one Kyuubi no Kitsune, I can master Sage Mode in my free time. Something I guess I'll have a lot of when I'm a toddler. Hinata-chan? Any questions?"

"Yeah. Who throw a kunai at you and where-"

"No killing villagers, Hinata-chan. I'm still in charge, I can't let my mate go on angry rampages throughout the camp." Hinata-chan looked a little disappointed, but I didn't buy it. "And I mean no."

"You're no fun," she pouted.

"And you've been talking to Kyuubi too much," I muttered, glancing at the seal on Hinata's left shoulder. It showed a golden fox with blue eyes standing beside a dark blue vixen with pale gray eyes. I glanced down at my own shoulder, the seal repeated. "Okay! I think that's it! Well… No real need to pack, but we should throw something together so we aren't too suspicious looking…" My voice drifted off as the three of us stood and began to walk towards the door.


"Okay. You have your instructions and plans if something were to go amiss while we're gone. If that is all, I'd like to get started."

"Yes, Hokage-sama!" The various jounin and ANBU filed out of my tent just as Temari walked in.

"Temari, what a surprise!" And it was; her Leaf Hitai-ate was held in her fist and her eyes were watering slightly. I sighed, expecting this moment, dreading this moment. "You're leaving the Leaf, correct?" For a moment the woman looked stunned before she recovered and nodded once.

"Yes, Hokage-sama. It has been too long since I have seen Gaara and Kankuro. I-I don't even know if-"

"Temari. It's okay, I understand. You can go back to Suna, I wouldn't hold it personally. This isn't your village anymore, now that Shikamaru is- now that he's gone. You're free to leave, if anyone asks, you have already gotten my permission. Just- before you leave- do one thing for me?"

"Anything."

"Never call me Hokage-sama. I'm Naruto to you, and Gaara, and every single villager in both Konoha and Suna. It is an empty title now, I'm just another shinobi now. I'm not even sure if Hokage Mountain is still standing, let alone intact."

"Okay… Naruto."

"Thank you, Temari. Say hello to Gaara for me?"

"Sure thing. Goodbye Naruto. I'll see you soon." Temari left with a wave and a small, hopeful, smile. I watched her disappear out of sight before sighing. No, you won't.

I stood from my desk and stretched. Looking out of my tent, I saw an ANBU, still guarding the tent. I rolled my eyes, perfectly able of defending myself. I waved him over and instructed him to fetch Kakashi and Hinata. I could feel the ANBU's confusion, even behind his mask.

"Shino, I know it's you. Just go get them."

"Hai!" He vanished and soon returned with Kakashi, Hinata not far behind. I thanked him and sat back down at my desk, saved from the invasion. I propped my feet up and waited for Kakashi-sensei and Hinata-chan to sit down.

"I think we should leave today." As expected, the two before burst into questions and complaints on the timing, but I held firm. "Listen to me, both of you. If we wait around, there is a chance that Iwa will find us and I will need to use more of Kyuubi's power to drive them off. If that happens, we will need to wait again till he is at full strength. The time-traveling jutsu is extremely draining, even for a demon like-"

That's DEMON LORD, KIT!

"Shut up, Kyuu! I know your title!" I returned focus to the pair in front of my and flushed just a little, already embarrassed. Kakashi snickered and Hinata-chan smacked him on the arm. I cleared my throat and the two stopped playing around. "Come on, I'm going to need both of you uninjured. Hinata-chan, don't beat up Kakashi-sensei; Kakashi-sensei, don't pick a fight you can't win. Back to the plan: We're leaving today, deal with it. If I need to, I will pull rank," I raised an eyebrow, the corners of my mouth twitching into a smile. "We go under the ruse of a mission before we mysteriously disappear. The ANBU have instructions, but that shouldn't be needed. Once we're in the past, the future should automatically rewrite itself and this time will disappear."

"And what's keeping us from disappearing with it?" Hinata-chan asked.

"We are. The way Kyuu explained it, we basically just go back to when we were born, all of our memories and abilities intact but we will look like normal infants. Kakashi, Kyuu and I will mess with the jutsu a bit so you don't end up having to live you're entire life again, only the time where Hinata-chan and I overlap with yours. Before you ask, you cannot go back to save Obito. I'm sorry, but you're going to need your Sharingan when you're older.

"As I said, Hinata-chan and I will go back to when we were born. This means that I'll be around a few months before you, but a that shouldn't matter much. However, I'm orphaned. So you, Kakashi-sensei, are going to 'adopt' me, whatever the old man says. Just tell him that it's because I'm your sensei's only son or something. He should buy that. After that, we just have to wait to make the right decisions at the right times and hope we don't screw up and end up killing someone important. Like Tsunade-baa-chan. That would not help anyone. Anything I missed?"

"Yeah… Since when am I adopting you?" Kakashi asked with a strange mix of anxiety and annoyance clashing in his mismatched eyes.

"Since I decided that if an ANBU captain is watching, people will be less likely to- I don't know, throw a kunai in my leg? 'Cause that really sucked the first time around. I'd rather not do that again."

"Okay… What about Sage-Mode? If I 'raise' you, Jiraiya might not take you in."

"Irrelevant. With the Demon Fox Summoning Scroll, kindly provided by one Kyuubi no Kitsune, I can master Sage Mode in my free time. Something I guess I'll have a lot of when I'm a toddler. Hinata-chan? Any questions?"

"Yeah. Who throw a kunai at you and where-"

"No killing villagers, Hinata-chan. I'm still in charge, I can't let my mate go on angry rampages throughout the camp." Hinata-chan looked a little disappointed, but I didn't buy it. "And I mean no."

"You're no fun," she pouted.

"And you've been talking to Kyuubi too much," I muttered, glancing at the seal on Hinata's left shoulder. It showed a golden fox with blue eyes standing beside a dark blue vixen with pale gray eyes. I glanced down at my own shoulder, the seal repeated. "Okay! I think that's it! Well… No real need to pack, but we should throw something together so we aren't too suspicious looking…" My voice drifted off as the three of us stood and began to walk towards the door.


Ten minutes later, Kakashi and I stood at the camp entrance. We were surrounded by a small pack of ninja dogs as well as ninja foxes that I had personally trained with Kiba when he was still alive. The dogs repeatedly growled at my foxes who just danced around the canines grinning. Kakashi ordered them to quiet down when I suddenly heard Hinata-chan running towards us from the center of the camp.

"Sorry… I … took so long," Hinata-chan smiled, out of breath.

"It's okay. What happened?"

"Oh! Sakura-chan didn't want me to leave Hana behind so early so I convinced her to take care of her while we were gone." I nodded in understanding, seeing the disguised distress hidden deep within my mate's lavender gray eyes. It almost hurts to leave her here, I thought to myself while Kyuubi sighed in agreement.

Welcome to parenthood kit. Foxes are especially protective of their mates and their kits.

Kyuu? You're a dad?

What, you think I've been stuck inside a human my entire life? No! I have two sons and a daughter.

Aww, what are their names?

The boys' are- Wait! Why am I telling you?

'Cause you love me?

Shut up and run, kit. Hinata's getting ahead of you.

I smirked at the bijuu sealed into me and laughed once at his expense before closing the distance between myself and Hinata-chan.

"We're almost there," she said, sounding distracted.

"It'll be okay, Hinata-chan. Everything will turn out right this time. I won't have Sakura's obsession with the lonely Uchiha, you won't deal with my obsession of Sakura, and we'll be together again. And, just for good measure, your father can stuff it."

"Oh my god! He'll be alive again! And Hanabi!… I'm not sure if I should celebrate or cry."

"I'd celebrate; everyone else will be alive again too. Or is that they're not dead yet? God, I hate time." I groaned to myself before Kakashi stopped dead in a wide clearing.

"We're here," he announced using his best 'I'm-so-bored-kill-me-now' voice, as I liked to call it.

"Good. Kyuu? Do you want to take over from here?"

Sure kit. Okay, you three close your eyes, its about to get really bright. And there might be a lot of noise. I've only done this once, and even then I didn't go to a set date… Hold on a minute…

A bright light filled my eyes as I struggled to close them. I heard a woman yell and another woman announce something to the rest of the room.

"It's a boy!" I kept my mouth and my eyes shut, not sure of how to react in this particular situation. "Kushina? Kushina! Hold on! I need a doctor over here! Kushina, do you hear me? Stay with my, Kushina, don't you want to see your son?"

"Na-Naruto?" I heard a very faint voice cough and I felt my head turn sharply towards the source as I opened my eyes slowly. On the hospital bed lay a red-headed woman who, in all seriousness, looked as if she were about to die. My eyes widened in shock as I realized what was happening. My mother is dying in front of me. I can't do anything to stop this. I spent the next few minutes in a painful silence, wishing my mother's heartbeat to start once more. It didn't.

A pair of hands grabbed at me and I began to cry, confused and dazed at what was happening. I heard a man yell something about the Yondaime and a battlefield. My stomach rolled as I realized what was happening; my father, the fourth Hokage, was about to seal the Kyuubi no Kitsune in me, sacrificing his life for the village he had sworn to protect with his life.

I felt a gentle hand on my arm, an attempt to distract me from the needle that was being embedded in my skin. I felt the anesthetic rush into my bloodstream and felt my energy leave me. I closed my eyes, giving up the urge to fight the drugs any longer.

Chapter Text

When I woke, I found myself looking at the face of the man that was holding me. I didn't recognize him until I saw the silver hair, the red and black eye. Kakashi? He isn't wearing his mask, I realized. Looking at his face for the first time, I was almost disappointed, the mystery finally solved. Hatake Kakashi looked strangely different, although normal enough, without his mask. I sat, almost mesmerized by the normalcy of the moment. I eventually noticed others in the background: old man, dozens of ANBU, a few jounin. I winked subtly at Kakashi and his eyes widened slightly before he relaxed his features into a sad smile.

"Naruto…" The Third Hokage said as he began to study me. I reached up a chubby hand and gently smacked Kakashi on the cheek, dying to see his reaction. Some of the crowd smiled but Kakashi's eyes narrowed ever so slightly. I smiled wider and turned to the Third. He walked up to me and took me from Kakashi's arms.

Playing along, I frowned and gently tugged on the old man's beard. He chuckled but gave me back to Kakashi before looking at the rest of the crowd. "Dismissed." He announced, the ninjas disappearing or running off towards various parts of the village. Sarutobi-Hokage sighed sadly and turned back to face Kakashi and I.

"Um… Excuse me sir, but what are you planning to do with Naruto?" Kakashi asked while I played along and giggled adorably. Old man smiled tightly and shrugged his shoulders.

"Honestly? I'm not sure." His wizened face studied mine and I burrowed into Kakashi's arms. He rolled his eyes towards me before glancing up.

"What if I take him in? It's the least I can do; he's Minato-sensei's son, after all," Kakashi repeated the reasoning I offered him. The Third looked between Kakashi and I before sighing.

"I suppose. It would be a very good move placing him in an orphanage… Too many people saw what happened today and they'll blame him for the Fourth's death." Old man shook his head once before slowly walking away, heading back towards the Hokage Tower, leaving Kakashi and myself alone. He took one look at me and his eye twitched.

"Can you talk yet?" He asked, not sure of what my reaction would be. I opened my mouth but found no sound could leave. I shook my head once sadly. "How long?" I held up nine fingers, guessing how many months. Kakashi rolled his eyes in exasperation while I smirked. This is going to be fun, I thought, already envisioning Kakashi-sensei trying to figure out baby-gibberish.Then again, he'll probably just leave me with a bowl of ramen… Great. I'll be dead by the time Hinata comes around.


One Year Later

"Naruto!" Kakashi-sensei burst through my door, hearing me wake up screaming again.

Stupid war! Go away already!

Kakashi took one look at me before nodding in understanding.

"The war?"

"… Yeah."

"Wanna talk about it?"

"Not really. It was just Konoha…" I drifted off, not wanting to explain my vivid nightmares. Konoha always burned, in each nightmare I had. Whoever the enemy, they laughed as my home crumbled to ashes.

"Hey, Naruto?" Kakashi called, waving a hand in front of my face. I jerked, broken out of my trance.

"What?"

"What- what was that jutsu you and the Kyuubi used?"

"Ah, yes. Akuma Bijutsu: Jikan no tenshi. I don't know much about it, only that it is extremely dangerous. The only reason I allowed us to go back was the fact that we had the highest demon lord backing our chakra reserves. Without Kyuu, we definitely would've died. Outside of that danger, it was difficult trying to find ourselves in a set time. We sent ourselves to my and Hinata-chan's birthday; Kyuubi ended up half a billion years before he was born, during the Demonic World Wars."

"Demonic World Wars?"

"Sorry, Kakashi, I don't have time to give you a history. Basically, the demon lords- not the Bijuu, they're a different classification- had a fight for dominance until they eventually agreed to disagree, creating a system not unlike our own shinobi government." I summarized, trying to squeeze years of tutelage under Kyuubi into a few sentences. I could tell I failed miserably however when Kakashi's eyes clouded with feigned understanding. "I'll tell you when you're older, it took me a long time to get it."

"But- But I'm older than you are!"

"Physically, yes. However, I also have about six billion years of knowledge compliments of Kyuubi no Kitsune. I win," I smirked, drifting back to sleep.


Five Years Later

I woke to a loud knocking on the door to Kakashi's apartment and chuckled, wondering which our crazy neighbors had come to scream about the 'evil demon' this morning. This go round, all of the villagers were informed that I was the son of Namikaze Minato, but that didn't do much to discourage the more angry citizens from verbal assaults. I suspected the only reason I was not given to same treatment in this timeline was the fact that I was almost always guarded by my own personal ANBU.

I walked out of my bedroom, only to collide with a tired looking Kakashi-sensei.

"What did you do this time, Naruto?" Kakashi groaned, walking towards the front door, still half asleep. I laughed again.

"I'm not sure actually. It's hard to keep track of everything," I smiled, winking at the annoyed ANBU captain. Said ANBU captain glanced at me dryly before opening the door, revealing Hyuuga Hiashi, to both my and Kakashi's surprise.

"Hiashi-sama? Whatever Naruto did, I'm sure he didn't mean to-" Kakashi glanced at me worriedly while I shrugged my shoulders. I don't think I did anything to the Hyuuga's… Hinata-chan would've killed me.

"Quiet. Where is he?" Haishi cut him off, sounding angry although that didn't mean much. That man was a tad irritable at his best moments. The happiest I've ever seen him when he was given the approval to place a Caged Bird Seal on Hinata-chan. Thankfully the war took him before it could be placed, but the intent was astounding.

The Hyuuga stepped past Kakashi into the apartment and narrowed his eyes, spotting me standing in the hallway. The man stared at me a bit longer until I coughed, self-conscious.

"Um.. Hello, Hiashi-sama. Is something wrong?" I kept my head high but averted my eyes, a pose I knew that Haishi preferred to see he thought to be less than perfect, anything less than a Main House Hyuuga.

"I'm not sure yet," the man narrowed his eyes further, now succeeding in making me nervous. Was something wrong with Hinata-chan?

I don't think so, Kit. He doesn't smell of worry and, at this point in her life, Hinata's father still likes her.

True… Then what's going on?

"My daughter, Hinata-sama, seems to have… taken a liking to you. She wants you to attend her birthday party tonight at the Hyuuga compound." Hiashi spoke as if each word caused him physical pain. I smiled mentally, Good thinking Hinata-chan, before nodding.

"I'd be honored," I smiled briefly, trying to look grateful. I suppose I succeeded, Haishi scoffed and agreed before leaving in a huff.

"Well," Kakashi began as soon as the door closed shut. "I guess that is how you officially meet Hinata."

"Better than last time. She was getting beat up by a couple of guys for being a Hyuuga. I helped her out, got beaten up, and left by the Branch member that came looking for Hinata-chan." I shrugged, glad I didn't have to go through that experience again. To think, I couldn't even create a simple clone. I turned to go back into my room to change into day-clothes when Kakashi stopped next to me.

"How can you live in there? Your room's a mess!" Kakashi said.

"It's no worse than your own," I shot back, glancing around at the discarded clothing, kunai, scrolls, and old ramen cups that littered the floor of my room.

"You're not leaving this apartment until you clean your room."

"Ooh, getting domestic on me, Kakashi?"

"Shut up and clean, Naruto. Or did you forget that Sasuke's coming over when you get back from Hinata's party?"

"Really? Great, I did forget! Meeting little Sasuke-teme for the first time, and I completely forget about it. Classic me, eh?"

"Yeah, it is. Don't forget that he isn't a teme yet. He is six years old. We have another two years to gain evidence and present our case to the Third before this gets out of hand. If you are friends with Sasuke, I doubt Sarutobi would approve an order to slaughter both him and his family."

"Okay, okay, I get it. Now I gotta get cleaning," I mumbled, pushing Kakashi out of my doorway.

"No shadow clones."

"No deal," I smirked. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" A cloud of smoke rose from the ground and I was suddenly faced with four exacts copies of me. "Okay, I know none of us want to do this, but we gotta get Sasuke-teme on our side before he has another option. So, WHO'S WITH ME?" Three of my clones agreed, the fourth began to argue. I pick up a kunai off of my floor and threw it at him, hitting his heart.

"Oi! What was tha-" The shadow clone evaporated into air while the rest of us began to work. Kakashi, who was waiting on the other side of the door, smiled and walked away to get his room cleaned up a bit. Or not.

Chapter Text

Candles flickered happily against the twilit sky. The Hyuuga compound was bustling with a quiet excitement in preparation for the heir to the clan head's sixth birthday. Branch and Main house members alike were chatting amongst themselves although the Branch members were more open towards the others. I walked off the main path, heading towards the small koi pond located behind the Main house. I sat on a wooden bench, watching the sunset, when I felt a familiar presence behind me.

"Hey, Hinata-chan. Thank you for inviting me to your birthday party." I grinned what Hinata-chan often referred to as my 'fox grin' before returning attention to the sunset and Hinata-chan's steady heartbeat.

"I'm glad that you could attend," Hinata responded, smiling coyly. I glanced away from the dying sun to look towards Hinata-chan. She looked adorable at six, dressed in a smoky purple kimono that offset her eyes. I glanced back at my own attire, simple black pants, a plain white shirt, and a periwinkle tie not unlike the shade of her dress. She motioned once to my tie before laughing. "Did you plan that?"

"Not at all, Hinata-chan."

"I'm sure, Naruto-kun," she chuckled before a boy not much older than us burst out of the trees.

"Ha ha! You can't catch me, Tenten!" He laughed over his shoulder. Seeing us on the bench, the boy blushed furiously as a young girl followed him out of the trees.

"Oh, you're so gonna get it-" She stomped towards the boy before pushing him into the duck pond. She crossed her arms proudly before spotting us and blushing accordingly. "That- that wasn't what it looked like…" Her voice trailed off and I coughed to hide a laugh. Hinata wasn't so subtle, she grinned brightly and gave young Tenten a thumbs up.

Tenten helped the boy out of the water and I only then noticed his gray eyes. The two walked off towards the main path, leaving us alone once more.

"That was Neji? I thought Tenten and Neji didn't know each other until they got put together in the same genin squad?"

"They didn't.

"Then how-?"

"Well, I may have invited a few more people than Father would have liked. But, as you said in the past, or future, he can stuff it," Hinata-chan winked and I once again reminded of how timid and shy she used to be around people, especially me. I hadn't realized I was grinning like an idiot until Hinata's fist came crashing down on my forehead.

"Wha- what was that for? I didn't even do anything?"

"What were you thinking about?"

"Actually, I was thinking about the day I came back with Ero-sennin. Do you remember the first thing you did when you saw me again? I asked for your help?"

"I remember that I fainted like an idiot."

"No you didn't, it was adorable. I was just too stupid to realize it."

"Yeah, between Sakura and Sasuke, I just can't get a break, can I?"

"Well, it's a good thing we're not like that- Wait, what? Sasuke? What about that… Snake!"

"As I remember you've kissed 'that snake' not once but twice."

"God, you weren't even assigned to that mission! Where did you hear about that?"

"Sakura. Sasuke was ranting about you again and she came to vent to me, about you of course." I groaned and held my head in my hands, already more embarrassed than I wanted to be in a single night. Hinata-chan giggled at my expression, increasing in volume as time dragged on- for me at least.

A Branch member soon came to find us and we were forced to end our reminiscing in favor of cake and presents that would only appease children. When the party finally ended, it was almost midnight. I got up to leave but Hinata-chan grabbed my arm and pulled me back into my seat at her left.

"Didn't I tell you? Kakashi was sent on a recon mission. He won't be back for a few days and, in the meantime, you'll be staying with me," she whispered, surprising me.

"But I didn't pack," I muttered back.

" Maybe Sakura was right… You aren't exactly the smartest," Hinata mused while I could feel my face flush. "Oh well, you're cute. But really, think. This is the Hyuuga compound. Think of how many Branch families we have. I'm sure someone has a boy your age with something you could wear. Besides, we can swing by Kakashi's place tomorrow to pick up some of your stuff."

"Good plan," I yawned. "So, where am I sleeping?" Hinata chuckled in a slightly evil way, dark enough to make me regret asking.

"Well Tenten wanted an opportunity to see Neji in makeup, so we're having a sleepover in the Main house. You and Neji will sleep in the living room while Tenten and I get my room down the hall."

"Hina-chan, I know my way around your house, you don't have to explain the layout… I'm not Shikamaru, but I'm not that stupid," I whined, six year old instinct kicking in. Hinata-chan just chuckled and grabbed my wrist, pulling me into the house.


 

"Naruto…. Naruto-kun…. Wake up Naruto," Hinata spoke over me as I felt her shake my arm.

"Shh, Hina-chan… It's too early… Go back to sleep," I mumbled groggily, not wanting to wake up but already conscious. I felt sun on my face and immediately threw my arm over my eyes, not wanting to be blinded. I yanked my arm away from Hinata-chan and she fell back, surprised by my sudden movement. I felt my body move on its own accord, rushing to Hinata-chan before she hit the tatami mat. "Are you okay, Hinata-chan? I'm sorry," I apologized before I felt her laugh in my arms.

"I'm fine, I always am," she assured me before glancing to the doorway, bringing my attention to a furious looking Hyuuga Hiashi. I gulped convulsively as Hinata-chan grinned evilly. "You aren't," she smirked lightly as she got to her feet gracefully before she stepped close to her father.

"Ah, Naruto. You're awake I see," Haishi choked out, trying to remain polite, if only to uphold his reputation.

"Hai, Hiashi-sama. Thank you for letting me stay the night. I appreciate it," I thanked the man, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. I could tell that I had done a poor job however; Hinata coughed to hide a smile and Hiashi's featureless eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

"Consider it a favor I owed your father." Haishi spun on his heel and strode out the room, ending the conversation and leaving Hina-chan and I looking surprised at his remark. Hinata-chan turned to me with questions in her lavender eyes. I shrugged them off and glanced around the room.

The Hyuuga living room was a mess- evidence from our sleepover with Neji and Tenten. I looked to Neji, still asleep on the couch, and winced. The boy resembled the future Kazekage's brother, Kankuro; his face was mercilessly drawn on by none other than Tenten, the future weapons mistress of the Leaf. I glanced in the china cabinet and my mouth fell open in horror. There, in thick black marker, were the words 'Naruto looooovvesss Hina-chan' across my forehead. I struggled to make words, my young instincts kicking in as my body went on shutdown.

"Wha- When- But, I- Is it?" I found my sentences incoherent, even for a six year old, so I turned to Hinata-chan who grimaced obligingly.

"Sorry, Naruto-kun. I couldn't stop Tenten… I was only going to use lipstick, she felt like using permanent marker. At least you don't have it on your arms too, I couldn't stop Ten-chan with Neji-san." Hinata glanced back at her cousin, a quiet regret in her eyes. I walked closer to Neji, wanting to see the damage for myself. Writing traveled up and down his arms and face, the print surprisingly legible for a six year old's hand. There were many variation of the message, but it all boiled down that 'Neji looooovvesss Tenten-chan'. I winced sympathetically before turning to Hinata-chan.

"That's in marker, isn't it?"

"I'm afraid so. Ten-chan's lucky Neji didn't wake up yet, he's going to freak out…" Hinata drifted off as Tenten appeared staggering in the doorway.

"Hina-sama, why are up and Naruto-san up so early?" She whined. I glanced out of the window to watch the sun just starting to appear over Hokage Mountain. I felt the familiar moment of confusion staring at the monument, only seeing four instead of six.

"It isn't that early, Tenten. I live with an ANBU captain, this is nothing," I kept a yawn from my retort as Tenten glanced guiltily over at Neji.

"Oh- um, oops," the girl said, glancing at his skin.

"Oops is right," Hina-chan smirked. "Especially because Naruto-kun and I are going out for ramen now. Have fun explaining that to Neji-san," she held back an evil chuckle as she grabbed my wrist and pulled me out of the door.

"Wait- Hina-chan! I'm not even dressed yet!" I shouted towards the Hyuuga heiress, my words falling on deaf ears.

"Too bad, I'd rather not be here when Neji-kun wakes up. He might not have been as bad now as he was during the Chuunin exams, but he had a very selective sense of humor," Hinata-chan glanced back at the quickly disappearing house with a worried light in her eyes. She's so cute when she's worried, I thought, smiling against my will. Instead of Hina-chan hitting me, something I expected, she smiled brightly in my direction. "Thank you."

"For?" In response, Hinata shook her kimono ever so slightly, the yellow and gray ink flashing in the muted sunlight. "Oh, yeah… I forgot about that," again, I added mentally. I thought back to the countless times that tattoo seal had come in handy; during each and every battle, Hina-chan and I were able to read each other's thoughts and emotions, allowing us to work in harmony much smoother than the enemy had expected. Until she had become pregnant, Hinata-chan and I had driven away droves of enemy ninja and even samurai, just by our seamless attacks.

"You always forgot about it when it wasn't the first thing on your mind." Hinata-chan smiled as she shifted her hand, now holding mine instead of dragging me by the wrist.

"I was a busy man," I defended half-heartedly. It wasn't that I had pushed Hinata-chan away from my mind, there were simply too many people- villagers and ninjas alike- who found themselves in my care. It was during those minutes that I had grown a solid respect from my predecessors, the former Hokage who had fought in the Great Shinobi Wars, as I found myself in the largest war since the time of the Sage of Six Paths.

"I know , Naruto-kun. I know that you had your hands full. I'm proud of you, of how long we managed to keep Konoha together."

"Too bad it wouldn't stay together," I responded sadly. Hina-chan looked up into my eyes and pulled me into a tight hug.

"It'll be different this time, Naru-kun. I promise." I love you, Naruto-kun, I heard my Hinata-chan's voice over our empathic link. I smiled before responding in kind, adding my own bit as I took note of my surroundings.

I love you too, Hina-chan. Always and everywhere… Did you feel the ANBU in that tree? About six yards, two o'clock?

Yeah, he's been there for a while… How much do you think he heard? Hinata's worried thoughts drifted their way to my mind, which I accepted and deliberated.

It's hard to say… We'll know if were taken to the Sandaime, I guess. I mean, we should probably tell him at some point… It'd be weird if we were stronger than everyone else in the Rookie 9

Not necessarily. I'm a Hyuuga, we're trained to be prodigies. Even last time, when Father hated me, I was still trained to the fullest. After all, it wouldn't do to have a weak Main House Hyuuga. With you, you live with the famous Sharingan Kakashi. I'm sure that Sarutobi-sama wouldn't think too much of it, Hinata-chan reasoned.

Still, we've just been talking about a different time period. I think that might catch the old man's eye, if not Danzo's.

Forget Danzo, the ANBU is still there. We have to act like we don't see him.

"Oh, Hinata-chan! I just remembered! Kakashi told me to say hello to Hiashi-sama when I saw him. Could you tell him?"

"S-sure thing, Naruto-kun," Hina-chan struggled to stammer in an attempt to bring back the former Hyuuga heiress.

"Thanks, Hinata! Are you hungry? Kakashi took me to this great place last week. They had the best food I've eaten in my life!" I tried to be the idiot I acted like back in my childhood. Hinata-chan coughed daintily to hide a smirk.

"O-okay N-Naruto-kun," Hinata-chan tried to giggle innocently before doing a handless technique I knew well. Jiko hozen no Jutsu! She thought, her eyes rolling back into her head as she hit the ground in a faint.

The Jiko Hozen technique was one that I myself had created. Before I had been made Hokage, I needed to find Sasuke-teme; I had made a promise to Sakura-san that I intended to keep. I hoped, perhaps foolishly, that Sasuke-teme would come back to Konoha after he satisfied his bloodlust, killing Hebi-teme's remaining henchmen. Needless to say, that idea proved false. However, with a little help from Shikamaru, I found a way to infiltrate Sasuke's main base, still hidden in Rice Country; as a dead body. I used the Jiko Hozen, adding more chakra so that it suited my needs, and fell into a deep sleep, seemingly dead with no signs of a heartbeat or breathing. I was slipped through security in a body bag; Sasuke, being the arrogant bastard that he was, needed proof of my death. Unfortunately, I woke up a moment too soon. I had to fight my way of the teme's main base, starting in the center, four levels below ground.

Either way, for better or worse, the Jiko Hozen was created. I watched as Hinata used my own technique to throw off the ANBU, still hiding. I smirked lightly and threw my young mate over my shoulder and turned on my heel, heading back to the Hyuuga compound.

Chapter Text

One Year Later

"Eh, Naruto? What are you doing? Don't you start in the Academy today?" Kakashi poked his head into my room as I sat at my desk, writing a short letter.

"Nothing, Kakashi. I just wanted to write this down so I don't forget it. Oh, yeah! Don't say anything to anyone about Mizuki that you hadn't in the original timeline. If you warn the old man, that means I don't have a good cover story for knowing the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu. Which I'm definitely going to need in the future. Besides, I'd love to learn some of the other jutsu on that scroll," I explained somewhat breathlessly. I stuffed the letter into my backpack and slung it over my shoulder as I prepared to jump out of the window.

"Wait, Naruto!"

"Eh?"

"You're seven. Wouldn't it be a little bit strange if you jump off the third floor and land on your feet? There are only so many times I can brush off the neighbors' comments."

"Then don't," I smirked, Shunshining out of my room and appearing on a rooftop nearby the Academy. I spotted Hinata-chan waiting by the door of the Academy. I jumped down from my vantage point and started to walk to Hina-chan. "Hey, Hina-chan!"

"Naruto-kun," Hinata-chan smiled quietly. "You're almost late."

"So are you," I pointed out to the Hyuuga heiress.

"Yes, but I was waiting for you. Come on, we don't want Iruka-sensei to get mad at us on the first day."

"Don't worry, we both know enough that he couldn't fail us if he wanted to. I just can't wait to see Sasuke-teme's face when I throw shuriken better." Hinata-chan raised her fist at my remark and I immediately took my words back. "Don't worry Hina-chan, the massacre doesn't happen for another year and a half or so. Besides, I already personally heard the Sandaime that he wouldn't allow the use of deadly force on Konoha ninjas."

"You heard this personally? How did you get into his office? Does he know that you were there?"

"Yes, easily, probably not. In that order. His office does have an open window. How do you think Ero-sennin got in so many times? I'm pretty sure he doesn't know I was there; if he does, he hasn't mentioned to either Kakashi or I, so I guess I'm in the clear. For now at least. I had an ANBU outside my room the other night."

"Yeah, I've had a few tailing me on and off the last week or so. Do you think Danzo is behind this?"

"Nah, they're just regular ANBU, not ROOT. Kakashi has an eye on Danzo, anyway. He couldn't try much and hope to get away with it, not now."

"I guess."

Hina-chan and I turned towards the Academy doors, only to find an ANBU wearing a weasel mask blocking the entrance.

"Hyuuga Hinata and Namikaze Naruto and summoned to the Hokage's office immediately. Your chuunin instructor has been informed. Follow me please," Itachi spoke from behind his mask. Hinata-chan glanced subtly in my direction and I gave a slight nod, pretending to glance at my blissfully orange-free outfit. Itachi had walked a few paces into the building and paused, waiting for us to catch up. I walked up to him and gave him a quick hug.

"It's nice to see you, Itachi-san. How's Sasuke doing?" I said as soon as I released him. The older ninja seemed surprised, hesitating under his mask. I gave him some time to compose himself as I dragged Hina-chan towards Sarutobi-ojiisan's office. The Uchiha collected himself and caught up just as I reached my fist to the door, ready to knock.

"Come in," a voice called before I could alert my presence. Eyebrows together, I feigned a confused look, trying to be innocent. I couldn't glance at Hinata-chan, her thoughts were in line with mine: trying not to laugh in our current situation. I glanced around the room, surprised to see the elders as well as half the Council hiding behind the Hokage and his ANBU guards.

"Ohayo, Ojiisan!" I smiled, jogging towards the desk. I stopped and ducked as I felt a kunai come dangerously close to my neck. I tried to retain my innocent child act, but my old battle-ready instincts kicked in as I spun downwards, grabbing the ANBU's wrist and twisting until I heard a faint crack and the ninja gasped, dropping the weapon. "Has ROOT decided to assassinate me yet? Or is this a social visit?" I coughed, dropping most of my act. I had my back turned to the desk, but I felt a chill travel down my spine as I heard Danzo chuckled humorlessly.

"I think I like this one, Hiruzen. He's either really stupid or really smart. Either way, with a few years I'm sure we could-"

"Naruto is not a weapon, Danzo. I said no. However, this is a matter that needs to be discussed," Hiruzen reprimanded the old war hawk, shifting his eyes to my stance. I realized I was primed for the taijutsu style I had created, the warau akuma, or the laughing demon. I shook myself out of the stance, walked slowly towards the desk and dropped the kunai onto the old wood.

"Keep your dogs on a shorter lease, Danzo. Kakashi already taught me how to defend myself. Also, I have no inclination to join ROOT. If anything, I'd go for the general ANBU corps." Danzo narrowed his eyes dangerously. I'm sure that the man's glare, as well as the killing intent that radiated from the old man, would have froze a normal six year old, but I had both seen and felt worse in my past. Danzo may have intimidated the council and the village elders but he had nothing on Uchiha Madara. "You don't scare me Danzo. But I'm sure Kakashi already told you not to mess with me," I smiled, equally humorlessly. Hinata-chan put a hand on my shoulder comfortingly and I shot her a much happier grin.

"Well Kakashi isn't here right now, is he?" Danzo smirked, thinking he had won. I smirked and laughed under my breath, pointing to the window. Kakashi sat on the window sill, reading from the orange book he was so fond of. He glanced up tiredly as he noticed the others jump at his presence.

"Thanks, Naruto. I was just going to watch, now I have to be involved." Kakashi complained to me.

"You don't have to be involved. You know I can take care of myself. After all, you're the one who taught me," I winked subtly at my former -or was it future?- sensei. He smiled and rolled his visible eye.

"True. Either way, here is the mission report," Kakashi stood from the window, passing the hokage a scroll. "You sure you're fine, Naruto?" I nodded, rolling my eyes. Kakashi chuckled and raised his hand in farewell. "Ja ne," he waved to the crowd gathered in the office. A few protested but the ninja paid them no attention, jumping out of the window and disappearing in a Shunshin no Jutsu.

"So," I emphasized, drawing out the word, "if Sarutobi-ojiisan would come with me, I have something to tell him. And- if you're worried for the Professor's safety against a seven year old, Weasel-san can come too," I announced. I turned to Hina-chan and gave her a carefree smile. "Can you stay here, Hina-chan? I think the council would get too antsy if the Hokage and an ANBU are up against two seven year olds." Hinata-chan rolled her eyes though her thoughts agreed to the wisdom. The Hokage and Itachi probably couldn't take us, even as seven year olds, if only because they'd be holding back.

I looked towards the ANBU whose wrist I had broken. "ANBU-san, give me your hand. I'm not going to do anything bad," I reassured the disguised ninja. He warily gave me his hand after Danzo nodded at him. I held his hurt wrist in one hand, holding out the other to the crowd. "Nobody freak out, I know what I'm doing," I murmured, concentrating my chakra onto my hand and causing it to light up with a green energy. I held my hand to the injury as I straightened the bones with my other hand. The ANBU winced once as I reset the bones, but remained still until I took my hand away and smiled. "Sorry for that earlier, I noticed Danzo's signal for you to attack. It was my fault, I could have just taken the kunai away. Are you better now?"

"How- How did you just-" A council member stuttered before Nara Shikaku, Shikamaru's father, elbowed him in the ribs.

"Medical ninjutsu. Keep up," he frowned tiredly.

"I think he meant to ask how I have enough chakra, chakra control, or even basic knowledge of medical-ninjutsu, Nara-san," I smiled tightly. "I'll ask again; can Weasel-san and Hokage-Ojiisan come with me?"

The two ninja came to my side, albeit warily. I shook my head and tried to be good-natured, seeing as I was almost kidnapping two ninja. "Inoichi-san, you should come too. Just so you guys can relax, we'll be in Interrogation room three. Knock if you absolutely need to come in," I glared pointedly at Danzo, sending him and only him, a short burst of killing intent. He shuddered and stared at me confused, probably wondering just what I was.

Chapter Text

"Inoichi-san, I'm sorry- can I speak to you in private for a moment?" I asked the blond ninja. He studied me for a moment, probably sizing me up, before nodding wearily. I led him a bit away from the group, close enough that they could see us but not hear a word exchanged.

"What is it?" He asked, sounding tired.

"I just wanted you to know; there are some thing in our world nobody should know. I'm sorry if what you're going to see causes you pain, but you need to see what happens. You more so than the other council members."

"Why?"

"Because- Well, honestly, I'm going to use something that you might not appreciate."

"And what would that be?"

"Omoide o aruku no jutsu. The Memory Walk. It's one of your clan jutsu if I'm correct," I explained, waiting for the inevitable explosion that would be the blond ninja's reaction. Surprisingly, he made an effort to keep himself calm before speaking, albeit in a strained tone.

"And how, may I ask, did you learn such a high level Yamanaka jutsu?" He emphasized his clan's possession of the jutsu and I sighed.

"You'll find out in about two minutes, when I show you, Itachi, and Ojiisan. And yes, I know that Weasel-san is Itachi-kun. He summons weasels, if you're curious. Hmm. We should get back to the others," I mused, grabbing Inoichi's wrist and dragging him gently towards the current Hokage. "All done. Now, I have some explaining to do, don't I?" I smiled for a moment, feigning excitement. My smile faltered as I remembered Madara-disguised-as-Tobi playing the same card against us so many times. I heard a small growl in confirmation emanate from Inoichi, so low that I'm sure the others didn't hear it. I felt a small nudge in the back of my head and I sighed. "Scratch that. Stay here, and make sure nothing happens. I need to check on something," I rolled my eyes as I sat in the lotus position before glancing at Kyuubi, pacing in my mind.

Is something wrong? I asked my own demon.

Something's not right. I'm not sure what, but something is different.

Of course something is different, I'm about to tell three ninjas that I'm from the future, can summon foxes, and that they all die. What isn't different?

The village elders. They fidgeted too much. I think it has something to do with the Uchihas.

Is this because of the Sharingan again? Listen Kyuu, I know that they were ungrateful jerks, but you can't do anything about it now. They all have the Sharingan but, as far as I know, none of them have the Mangekyou. Not even Itachi.

Still. Theirs is something wrong, kit. Something missing… What is it? Kyuubi continued to talk, seemingly to himself, so I retreated out of my mind. Coming to my senses, the first thing I noticed was Inoichi on the floor. I stared wordlessly at him for a moment before coming to a conclusion and groaning.

"Tell me he didn't try to do what I think he tried to do." Itachi shook his head, kneeling at Inoichi's head. I grumbled to myself, not sure of what I was saying. I focused chakra to my hands again, placing one hand on Inoichi's forehead and another on his heart. "Come on, Inoichi. Wake up," I muttered, sending the chakra out of my fingers and into Inoichi's motionless form. He jerked awake, knocking me down. "Damn, Inoichi-san. All I did was wake you up, no need to get violent," I rubbed my bruised shoulder before shaking and losing the joking façade. "Don't tell anyone what you saw until after I'm done. They won't understand with what they know. No offense," I added, seeing the offended faces of Ojiisan and Itachi, his mask now sitting atop his head.

"None taken, Naruto-kun" Itachi chuckled slightly. We all stood and I led the way to Interrogation.

"First of all, I want you to know that I hadn't intended on showing any of this to anyone yet. Why was it that you suspected me?" I asked. Itachi and Inoichi shrugged their shoulders, Ojiisan narrowed his eyes.

"Suspected you of what, might I ask? Danzo thought that, if I see you, he'll be able to convince me into giving you to ROOT. Thought, I guess he'll have to persuade you as well, seeing how well informed you appear to be," the Sandaime Hokage mused.

"Yeah, that's not going to happen. But honestly, you two had no idea that I was anything other than Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto?"

"Are you something more?" Itachi's joke died when he saw me, with a straight face, nod. His eyes narrowed suspiciously and he subconsciously took a half step in front of the Sandaime.

"Calm down, Itachi. I'm not going to do anything out of line. Even if my furry little friend wants otherwise," I pointed towards my stomach, the demon lord's fur bristling at being called little, furry, and my friend. I smirked at his emotions but steeled my mind to reject influence from his poisonous chakra.

HEY KIT! THAT 'POISONOUS CHAKRA' SAVED YOUR ASS MORE TIME THAN YOU CAN COUNT! AND DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON-

I cut the connection to his consciousness and winced as he took some of his chakra out of my inhuman reserves. Is that necessary? I asked, trying to reestablish the link. Kyuu rejected the contact and shut himself away in the recesses of my mind.

"Naruto? Naaarrrutooo!" A voice called. I jumped, leaving my mindscape.

"Sorry about that. Kyuubi wanted a chat." Sandaime visibly paled while Itachi took a step back. Inoichi held his ground, having seen us have a discussion inside my mind. What I hadn't expected was the ninja to be so brave. The blond snorted and rolled his eyes at the two ninja's reactions, acting like he wasn't at all bothered.

"What did he want?" Inoichi asked, seeming truly interested.

"Not much. He thinks I'm being ungrateful towards him, so he cut down the amount of chakra he gives me. Kind of like an allowance. And, before you ask, the chakra doesn't corrupt my judgment or anything like that. It just improved my senses. It's kind of cool actually. I've been practicing enhancing my vision. It works really well, but it had a strange side effect."

"Side effect?"

"Yeah. Wanna see?" I dared the ninja. He thought for a moment before nodding briefly. I closed my eyes, focusing my chakra similar to a ninja activating an ocular jutsu such as Sharingan and the Byakugan. When I opened them, I knew that my eyes were now a fiery red and my pupils were but slits. I glanced towards Itachi and Sandaime, allowing them to see my red eyes. "See? I call them demon eyes, for more or less obvious reasons."

"What do they do?" Ojiisan asked curiously.

"Well, I'm pretty sure it's going to become a bloodline limit like the Sharingan and the Byakugan, so I'm only going to tell you the basics. There are two forms; this one is phase one, called Akuma no Me, demon eyes. It enhances my vision and also allows me to see chakra and all 361 of your tenketsu. Also, it automatically breaks most genjutsu. I've been wondering if it can break Tsukuyomi but I severely doubt anyone would be willing to test it on a seven year old. Maybe when I'm older. But I digress. The second form is named Shi no Me, eyes of death." I pressed more chakra to my eyes, trying to trigger the transformation. From the gasps, I surmised it worked, causing my eyes to darken to black, even the whites. The only color remaining were my pupils, still crimson and slits. "I haven't perfected this form yet but I only discovered it a few weeks ago. So far, I know that, unlike the Mangekyou Sharingan, it doesn't deteriorate my eyesight. I can cast a powerful genjutsu though I haven't done it outside of training with Kakashi and, seeing as he isn't hospitalized, I can control it easily. It seems to do everything that the first form does but, other than that, I'm not completely sure of this stage's capabilities, but don't worry. I'm not going to use it against the village or any of you. I'm not nearly as sadistic as Kyuubi wants me to be." I finished, letting the chakra recede from my eyes which reverted to the natural blue. Itachi seemed a little uneasy hearing of an ocular jutsu that could beat the Mangekyou Sharingan, but he remained silent. Ojiisan seemed more concerned with how I knew Kyuubi.

I stood before my small captive audience, trying to decide the best course of action. My main dilemma was to find a way to tell them the truth in a way that wouldn't cause them to a) not believe me or b) believe me, not believe I could control Kyuubi, panic, and end up telling the entire village about the Rokudaime's return to the past.

Hey Kyuu! Any ideas that don't involve a massacre?

Well you could always- wait. Did you say no massacre? Hmm… Nope, I got nothin, Kit. Guess your on your own for this one.

I don't think so… I got an idea. Time to summon. And don't kill anyone this time, I'd rather not have to revive anyone else. That jutsu takes a lot out of me and I don't even have any extra souls with me.

Fine, Kyuubi grumbled while I retreated out of my mind, returning attention to the three ninjas in front of me, now calmed down from my earlier Itachi was leaning against a wall, trying to maintain a calm and collected façade but I could see the turmoil and confusion in his eyes. Inoichi was questioning the Hokage, asking if he was sure that I hadn't recently been near the Yamanaka house. The Sandaime himself looked more agitated than I'd ever seen him. I stifled a laugh, forming a mental image of Hiruzen punching Inoichi into a wall.

"Ojiisan, as funny as it would be, don't beat up Inoichi-san. He has a reason to be so… determined."

"And what reason would that be?" Hiruzen asked, his eyes narrowing slightly at Inoichi.

"Because I know a lot more than he'd like me to know. For example, I can successfully utilize some of his most complicated family jutsu," I explained. "Now, will you kindly shut up? I have a lot to explain and this information is not for Danzo's ears. I doubt Hinata-chan, as talented as she is, will be able to keep that teme away for long. Probably another fifteen minutes at most. This is highly sensitive information and I'd rather not add to Danzo's chessboard of politics. Any questions? I'd like to get started."

"Yes; why do you know Yamanaka jutsu, let alone any jutsu? You're barely seven years old."

"A seven year old raised by Sharingan Kakashi, son of the White Fang. Is it surprising that I'm… different from other seven year olds?" I asked rhetorically. "As for the Yamanaka jutsu, all in good time; it's one of the things I'd like to explain. First, you should all know that I am the holder of a summoning contract. Nobody freak out, I'm going to summon one of my favorites," I explained, my hands flying through the seals. "Kuchiyose no jutsu!"

The smoke cleared quickly, revealing a small fox. She was a mortal fox that I had rescued just last winter after I found her training. She had dark grey blue fur that was streaked with white. She looked at my with intelligent eyes, questioning me as to why she was summoned.

I must admit, I was proud at how my audience reacted. Not a single one fainted. Itachi lost his balance and fell a step forward. Inoichi's eyes widened and he took a step back, perhaps subconsciously. The Sandaime himself looked shocked at the appearance of my friend.

"Who- How did you- When did-" Hiruzen stammered, staring at the small fox with suspicion and disbelief.

"This is Koyuki. I found her last winter when I was training. She was injured and I helped heal her. Don't worry, she is a mortal fox. She can't grow and destroy the village. Although she is becoming a great ninja fox," I smiled, scratching my youngest summon behind the ears. She grinned as only a fox, and myself, could and leaned into my hand. "Don't be fooled, this girl can probably take on the strongest Inuzuka hound and win without a scratch. She's highly intelligent, even for a fox, and is learning English quickly."

"She- She's learning English?" Itachi questioned, looking at the fox incredulously. I nodded to Koyuki and her grin widened.

"Of course I'm learning. Only Naruto-sama can speak to foxes and I needed some way to squeak to the rest of you," Koyuki said clearly, as if the other ninja would have a hard time understanding her.

"Speak, Koyuki, Not squeak," I corrected smiling.

"Have I mentioned how… difficult your language is? It's a lot less logical than Kitsune. Too many exceptions to your own rules." My summons shook her small head daintily. "So, why am I here, Naruto-sama?"

"I thought I'd take it slow with these three. I didn't tell them about the big thing yet," I explained. All of my summons knew about my trip through time, either being told by Kyuubi as we passed through the timeline or by myself as I befriended each one.

"Ooh, can I stay and watch?" Koyuki's vulpine eyes laughed with me as she envisioned the trio of uninformed ninjas' faces as they took in the new information.

"Sure. Okay, nobody freak out. I'm going to use a Yamanaka jutsu to show you something. It'll be long and complicated so just let me-" I allowed my voice to drift off as I walked to the door and placed a time seal on it. "Okay, that should give me enough time to show you and calm you down enough that you can leave." My hands went through the seals and I whispered "Omoide o aruku no jutsu!"

The interrogation room melted away, drifting first into my inauguration ceremony, my friends congratulating me on finally becoming Hokage. I pressed the memory to my mind, willing it to stay in place.

"I am Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto, Rokudaime Hokage of the Village Hidden in the Leaves," I said in the most serious voice my seven year old vocal cords could manage. "Any questions?" I smiled, three ninjas hitting the floor. Koyuki, now clinging to my shoulder, purred in delight.

"I was right, that was punny."

"Funny," I corrected, still smiling. I took the image in front of my and pressed it to the seal I shared with Hina-chan.

...

~In the Hokage's Office~

...

"-can't we go with them?" One of the council members, one of the few civilians in the room, asked.

"No, you can't. Naruto-kun deliberately said not to, and you aren't in a position to question or disobey them," Hinata pressed her hands to her temples, trying to get rid of the headache that the council was steadily adding onto.

"And who's to uphold them?" The civilian smirked, taking a step forward. Hinata smirked and disappeared in a blur, reappearing right next to the civilians with a kunai held close to his neck.

"That would be me," she smiled angelically. She moved again, appearing sitting in front of the door twirling a kunai in her right hand. "Personally, I'd rather go to class. However, I was summoned to the Hokage's office. And here I, and all of you, shall stay until the Sandaime returns." Hinata added seriously before laughing loudly at the image that had just made its way into her head courtesy of her joint seal. The others in the office shifted uneasily, held captive by a seemingly insane child.

Chapter Text

~Interrogation Room 3~

I shook my head, chuckling at the three ninja before summoning another fox, this one a two tailed demon fox. Might as well start it slowly, I reasoned to myself while Kyuubi roared with laughter.

And they call themselves ninja! Kit, that was too funny, you have to do that again later. I'd love to see the Haruno's face, Kyuubi laughed, shaking my mindscape.

"Mai, can you wake up Inoichi?" I asked the demon fox. She glanced around, recognizing the blond ninja from my memories. Koyuki rolled her eyes and walked over to Itachi, ready to kick him awake. "Koyuki, please don't hurt him too much. He isn't the same person anymore. And Mai, get ready for him to pass out again," I chuckled, walking over to the Sandaime. A shout and a short scuffle later, I glance over my shoulder to find Inoichi pinned down by Mai. I smiled before walking to Hiruzen.

"Ojiisan… Ojiisan…. OJIISAN!" I shouted, beginning to lose patience. I checked his pulse, just to be sure; Sandaime was by no standards young. I smirked before shaking the man awake. He jumped, startled.

"Wha-"

"It's okay Ojiisan. It's just me."

"Na-Naruto-"

"Yep, Rokudaime at your service." I mumbled, helping the Sandaime to his feet. Koyuki was now licking Itachi's face, trying to wake him. "Mai, you can get off of Inoichi now. I'm sure he's calm enough."

"If you say so, Naruto-sama." Mai nodded her head once, retreated off of Inoichi's form, the blond ninja getting to his feet shakily. Sandaime frowned, studying Mai for a moment before gasping and pointing at her.

"She- she's a-"

"I'm fully aware Sandaime. She is also one of my summons. If you or this village makes one wrong move towards her, I shall personally defend her and punish those who have acted against her, the punishment equal to the crime. She may be a demon fox, but she is more civil than a disturbing number of humans. And, unlike some of her relatives, she is probably the least bloodthirsty fox I've met, mortal foxes included. For that, she has my respect and should also have yours," I concluded, smiling at Mai. "You may leave if you want. I know you don't like to be in such proximity to humans, especially the Leaf." She smiled gratefully before vanishing in a quick burst of smoke.

"Why is your summons so uncomfortable in Konoha? The only demon fox we've had problems with is now sealed with you," Inoichi asked, confused.

"She is neither fond of or against Konoha. The only reasons she has an opinion of the village at all is because I came from here and, as you said, a part of her family is sealed in my stomach."

"Her family?" A voice asked. I glanced over to the door and saw Itachi now standing, Koyuki walking back towards me.

"Hai. She is Kyuubi's niece, the only daughter of his youngest sister. Her father and mother are now gone, murdered by Iwa long ago when she was just a one tail. She was taken in by Kyuubi and his mate, Haiko. Kyuubi was the closest family she had until he was sealed within me by my father."

"How were her parents killed? Weren't they demons?"

"Demons aren't invulnerable. They can be wounded and killed, but it is so difficult few every attempt to attack the higher demons such as foxes. There are very few weapons and jutsu that can even touch demons, most of which cause catastrophic damage to the user. Just look at my father: he was killed and Kyuubi was trapped within a human vessel. If I had been killed before my third birthday, Kyuubi would have been freed to the world once more."

"So that's why Kakashi trained you from such a young age," Inoichi mused.

"Not exactly. After I had gotten the demon summoning contract from Kyuubi, I trained by myself. Remember that I'm not seven years old. Before Kyuubi and I went back in time, I was twenty three. All I had to do was retrain my body to be able to do thing that my older self could do, such as Sage mode."

"You can do Sage mode? Already?" Hiruzen asked, his eyes nearly bulging out of his head. I sighed.

"Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that part. In my time, we had the Neo Sannin. Like the original, we were all under the same sensei when were genin. After that, we separated and were each taught by one of the original Sannin. I was taught by Ero-Sennin, Haruno Sakura by Tsunade-obaachan, and Sasuke taught by Hebi-teme. A while after I mastered the Toad Sage form, I received the demon fox summoning scroll and signed it. Unfortunately, that nearly annulled my signing of the toad contract- the chakra needed to summon toads skyrocketed and I couldn't summon Gamabunta and have enough chakra to use my best jutsu. I had to relearn sage mode from the demon foxes, who had a completely different method. It was a pain, but in the Demon Fox Sage mode, I could better utilize more of Kyuubi's chakra without it taking over. I could control about seven tails before the chakra was too influential and I couldn't determine friend from foe. Back then, I couldn't go past three tails. Four or more and I was gone. I remember once, during a fight with Orochimaru-teme, I took too much chakra and hurt Sakura."

I let the information absorb for a while before I prepared for the memory walk again. I was about to go through the seals again when Hiruzen looked up at me.

"You said that you were the Rokudaime. What happened to me and the Godaime?"

"You were- I'll put it bluntly, you were killed by Orochimaru-teme during my Chuunin exams. He posed as the Kazekage and invaded Konoha allied with Suna. I defeated Gaara, the Shukaku's vessel, and Orochimaru fled after you sealed his arms away. The sealing cost you your life and Orochimaru-teme took another body, replacing his arms. Don't worry about Suna, we're really good allies and the Kazekage was one of my best friends. The Godaime was Senju Tsunade. After you died, Ero-Sennin was offered the position but declined it in favor for travel. The two of us left Konoha for a while and found Tsunade and Shizune in a gambling town. She came back with us after a bet and a fight and became Hokage."

"What happened to Tsunade?" Sandaime asked, worry in his eyes for his old student.

"She got old. We were invaded again when I was sixteen. She used up too much chakra and fell into a coma. She woke up later, but Danzo had already taken over. After Danzo was killed by Sasuke, I was declared Hokage in the middle of the Fourth Great Shinobi War."

"Sounds like we missed a lot, then."

"Not missed. None of it happened yet. However, I know what your clan is planning Itachi. It would be wise to convince them against it. The thing Danzo is planning is one of the main reasons Sasuke left Konoha to become a missing-nin and join Orochimaru and Madara."

"What is he-" Inoichi began.

"Omoide o Aruku no Jutsu!" I shouted. Dozens of memories, my memories, spun around us in two lines, one much longer than the second. "This is my version of the Memory Walk Jutsu. Instead of showing you a single memory, it rearranges everything you know into timeline. I have two timeline because I traveled back and changed my life from the beginning," I explained, comparing the two timelines at the same point. "In the original during the Kyuubi Sealing Festival, I was beat up for killing the villagers by those who thought I was the fox. In this timeline, I've had a birthday party. This way, I can compare my lives and give you three a glimpse of my past and your possible future."

I pulled events out of the timeline: Team Seven going to get ramen, Sasuke getting his Sharingan, fighting Orochimaru in the Chuunin exams, promising Sakura that I'd get Sasuke back even if it killed me. I showed myself training with Ero-Sennin, coming back to Konoha after years of traveling and training, Sakura and I fighting Kakashi as we tested our teamwork again after years of being separated. The rescue mission to save Gaara, the Kazekage and my friend. Battling Akatsuki members, including Itachi, and winning- most of the time. Hearing news that Sasuke had killed Orochimaru and later Itachi, but still refused to return to Konoha. I showed scenes from my battle with Pain, where I was ready to die if it meant preventing more death and destruction to my home up to the point where I was talking with Nagato, then crying over his and Jiraiya's death, when I swore to erase hatred from our world.

More recent battles; fighting alongside Gaara as we attacked armies single handedly, both of us desperate to prevent our friends from dying. I showed myself being taught various jutsu from my friends: Sakura's medical ninjutsu, Kiba's tracking techniques, Ino's family jutsu, and struggling to hold onto shadows under Shikamaru's tutelage. Finally, I showed the final battle in Konoha, in which we fell. We had rumors of a possible attack that I acted on, saving as many villagers and shinobi as I could. My orders for evacuation could not save everyone, however. Ino, Kiba, Bushy-Brows, Neji, Ten-ten, Chouji, and Shikamaru had all fallen in that one battle, trying to by everyone else time to escape. I had fought in that battle, using my father's Hiraishin in an attempt to keep everyone protected, a plan that had failed. I finally showed a happier memory, holding my daughter in my eyes and seeing a smiling Hina-chan and Kakashi looking at me trustingly.

Deciding I had shown as much as I could, I pulled out of the timeline. I turned away from my memories and faced the three ninjas. Itachi was kneeling, breathing heavily. The Sandaime looked concerned and kept his eyes averted. Inoichi looked… angry. Seeing my memories of his daughter's death caused his blood to boil.

"This is what I want hidden from Danzo. Itachi, I don't know if I should keep you away from Danzo or not. What you did caused so much… If you don't, then all of my memories will be void and I wouldn't be able to predict anything correctly. You won't leave and become Jiraiya's spy in Akatsuki, you won't be killed by Sasuke and give him the Mangekyou. But I can't ask you to kill your family. I'm sorry, but that decision is yours and yours only to make.

"Inoichi, I'm sure that wasn't the best for you either. I know for a fact that Ino and Lys are your world. It probably won't help, but the only reason you weren't there is because you had already died fighting Uchiha Madara protecting Ino. You gave her and her newborn son time to escape. Your death is what convinced her to teach me Yamanaka jutsu. You and your daughter are the reason I know your jutsu and they saved my life more than once." I smiled sadly at my memories, turning to Sandaime.

"Let me just say, I really missed you. Now that I think about it, you were really annoyed by me in the past timeline. All I did was jump around, shout about how I was going to be Hokage, and yell at Kakashi-sensei for being late all the time. You had to convince Iruka-sensei to teach me, and even he wasn't too happy about it until I convinced him that I wasn't Kyuubi. And who can forget about the Will of Fire speeches? Okay, I guess you can, because technically you've never said them, but- I'm rambling." I laughed quietly before I heard a slow knocking on the door. Hinata-chan sent a quick apology through the seal.

"It's okay, Hina-chan. We've just finished." I said to her through our link.

"I'm sorry, he had the ANBU and the Council try to tackle me or something. I probably could have beat them, but that would've looked off, a single seven year old going against twelve ninja and winning? A little too much to expect, even from the Hyuuga heiress," she responded, a little sarcasm when she talked about her position in her clan.

"I know. I put a time seal on the door anyway. Just leave it to me."

"'Kay, Naruto-kun. Beat up Danzo for me?"

"Maybe when we're older, it'll look less suspicious," I laughed, feeling Hinata-chan mentally pout at me. I rolled my eyes back at her and walked towards the door, ripping off the seal and focusing chakra in my hand to burn it.

"Yes?" I asked the assembled ninja. Danzo stood amidst three masked ninja, all wielding kunai and ready to rush the door. The war hawk himself stood flabbergasted at my casual response and, at his pause, I turned my head back to Hiruzen.

"I'll see you later, Ojiisan!" I shouted into the room, winking at the trio. "Come on, Koyuki. We're late for class!" I shouted, jogging back towards the Hokage's office where Hinata-chan was waiting for me.

Chapter Text

After school, Hinata-chan and I walked back towards the Hyuuga compound where a Branch member was ready, as always, to take her either to the Main House or to the dojo for training in the Jyuuken. We walked calmly up to the gates and greeted them, a young woman, looked at me with narrowed eyes as she listened to Hina-chan's pleas.

"And as long as Naruto-kun's there, I'm not going to get hurt. I'll probably just watch him for a while than come back. Please? Please please please!" Hinata-chan begged. Judging from the feel of her thoughts, she was trying not to roll her eyes just as desperately as I was. After a while, the Branch member was worn down by her reasoning.

"Okay, okay." She quieted Hina-chan. "How about this: I'm going to go for a walk and tell Hiashi-sama that you came along. If you aren't back by the time I reach this front gate, you'll be the one to explain everything to your father."

"Thank you, Shiratori-chan! I'll be back really soon, okay?" Hinata-chan shouted over her shoulder, dragging me behind her. After a while, she stopped and spun around. "So what's so important that you needed to wait till after school to tell me?"

"Not here. We're going to the forty-fourth," I explained and Hina-chan visibly paled.

"You don't mean-"

"Don't worry, I've been going there to train for the last few weeks. Everything in there knows not to mess with me," I said, grinning my trademark grin.

"I'm sure," she said, shaking her head slowly in exasperation. "Is this that serious that we have to go all the way there?"

"Yes. Are you up for a race?"

"Oh, you're so on. Kai," she smirked, deactivating her chakra-sensitive weights and stretching. I followed suit and smirked as I felt over two hundred pounds of pressure disappear from my limbs and chest. "What are you up to on your weights? I have twenty on each arm, twenty-five on each leg."

"That's nothing, I have forty-five on each limb and another twenty-five on my vest." I smiled at Hinata-chan and got into a runner's pose. She rolled her eyes and shifted into the pose, knowing that she'd lose this race. "On your mark, get set, HEY!" I shouted, watching Hinata-chan run off without me, only a dust trail left behind her as she rocketed away from the village.

When I caught up with Hinata-chan, the gates to the Forest of Death were in sight. I leapt past her in a long bound and jumped close to the gate, flying over the high gate and landing on a tree on the other side. Hinata-chan stopped dead in front of the gate, glancing upwards before shaking her head and slipping in through a hole in the fence a few yards away.

"Cheater," I teased. She just smiled and flipped her hair away from her face and jumped to meet me in the trees. My hand formed the ram seal and I felt the weight return to my body. "Follow me and stay close, the animals in here don't know you as well as they know me," I cautioned her.

"Okay, I'll be right behind you," she reassured me lightly, reactivating her own weights. I rocketed through the trees, following my path of kunai slashes towards my favorite clearing. After a few minutes, it came into view.

The clearing itself was huge, about 120 yards long and fifty yards wide. Dotting the grass were craters of various size, all remains from my former training sessions. Unlike Team Seven's training grounds, where I still went while it was unused, I only used the Forest of Death during the more serious ventures that I set for myself; here I could train without fear of being discovered. I had never been followed into the Forest of Death and only Kakashi knew the exact location of my clearing. It was here that I re-learned the Rasengan and Rasenshuriken. I had mastered Sage mode in this clearing and began to learn the Hiraishin with a three pronged kunai given to Kakashi by my father when Kakashi was promoted to jounin.

"What happened here?" Hinata-chan asked, looking short of breath at all the destruction.

"I was training. There's a reason the animals know to leave me alone," I shrugged. I jumped to the branches of my favorite tree and sat down, patting the limb beside me. On one of my first trips to this clearing, I had discovered that, from the top branches of this oak, I could see all of Konoha spread below me, Hokage Mountain in the distance. The mountain still seemed empty, lacking both Tsunade's and my own image carved into the rock. Now, gazing at the village, Hinata-chan jumped up beside me and smiled at the view.

"This is beautiful."

"I know. You'd never think that one of the best views of Konoha is from the Forest of Death. Anko-chan would feel scandalized," I chuckled, remembering the eccentric purple-haired kunoichi. Hinata-chan laughed, leaning against my arm. We sat, enjoying the view and each other's presence until I cleared my throat. "I'm leaving the village for a few years." I winced, feeling Hinata-chan's sense of betrayal from our link.

"What? Why? Did something happen?"

"No, nothing at all. I need to get away from the village for just a while. I need to start some rumors and reestablish my spy network. I'm going to leave a Niku Bunshin behind that will go to the academy while I'm gone, but I need to go before too long."

"Can- can I come too?"

"I'd love it if you could, but I don't see how. You have your Hyuuga training to do and I'm not sure even a Niku Bunshin could survive a Jyuuken training spar. I think we'll have to be apart for a while." I felt Hinata-chan's feelings, sharper than any words, stab my heart. All I could do was try to defend my reasons and hide my own feelings about my leaving as I pulled her into a hug. "Don't worry Hinata-chan, I'll be back soon. It'll be just like when I left with Ero-sennin. You didn't like it then but you still let me leave. And I won't be gone for as long this time. If all goes to plan, I should be back in just over a year. That's not too bad, is it?" I comforted my Hina-chan. She shook her head against my shoulder and sniffed once. "I have something to give you," I said quietly, not wanting to startle her. "Two things actually. Only one of them is really from me, I guess."

Hinata-chan looked up, meeting my blue eyes with her lavender. "What is it?" she asked, shifting her weight away from my and allowing me to stand. I reached into my school bag and took out a scroll. I opened the scroll and bit my thumb before smearing the blood onto the large seal on the paper. Another, larger, scroll appeared. The outside of the scroll was etched with dark red and purple flames originating from each horizontal edge. I opened the scroll, revealing my name and my handprint written in blood below a heading that stated, 'Demon Fox Summoners'. I held the scroll open to my mate.

"This is technically from Kyuubi. He said that you deserve to summon foxes and I agree completely. The choice is yours, though. If you sign this contract, then you'll have your own pack. Your pack can be both mortal and demon foxes; for example Koyuki and Mai are both in my pack."

"So why does Kyuubi want me to sign this? Not that I'm ungrateful or anything, but I am a little confused."

"He wants to… keep it in the family," I mumbled, my seven year old face flushing. Hinata brightened and bit her thumb, reaching for the scroll. I held it open and she signing her name Namikaze Hinata. I rolled my eyes but she didn't seem too concerned.

"It's still my last name, time travel or no. Besides, Kyuubi knows who I am, I don't think he'll mind, especially if he wants the scroll to stay in the family," Hinata-chan defended her reasoning.

"I didn't say anything, Hina-chan." Anything to not get hit again, I thought to myself before wincing, watching Hinata raised her fist threateningly.

"What was that, Naruto-kun?" She asked in her sweetest, yet strangely evil, voice. My eyes widened ever so slightly. The armies of Iwa? Bring it on, they're no problem to the one and only Rokudaime Hokage. Hinata-chan's fist? Now I'm scared.

Heh, kit. You're so whipped! Kyuubi laughed at my expense, reveling in my terror.

Shut up Kyuu. That just means that your vessel is whipped. You sure know how to pick the, I smirked back at him, knowing that would rub him the wrong way. We continued to joke around back and forth until my instincts warned me that something was quickly approaching my head. I tried to duck but I was too slow, I rolled too far and fell out of the tree. Glancing up, I saw Hinata-chan smirking at the treetop.

"I guess you don't want your present," I goaded the Hyuuga heiress. Her eyes, shining with momentary joy, met mine before she leapt off of the tree, did a double front flip, and landed at the base of the tree trunk in a crouch. "You know, I remember when you could barely talk in front of me."

"And I remember when you kissed Sasuke and got beat up by a crowd of fangirls. What'd you get me?" she pressed. I groaned. Somehow, she always found a way to bring up that memory, a memory I'd rather crumple into a ball, set on fire, and laugh maniacally to the sky as it burned.

I reached into one of my pockets, grasping a small box. "No, this is not a wedding ring. Your father would kill me if I proposed at age seven," I smiled, watching Hinata-chan's eyes examine the black box before opening it slowly. Nested in the center of the velvet was a small charm, hanging on a silver chain. The charm was a highly detailed fox and completely silver, a small seal on the back of it. "That seal is the Hiraishin marker. I can use my father's technique from anywhere, at anytime, to travel to your necklace. If you need me, all you have to do is take off the necklace and feed it some chakra. It'll alert me and I'll come. That's not it thought. Bite your thumb and put a drop of blood on the charm." Hina-chan looked overjoyed at the seal and confused at my request. She played along and placed a drop of blood on the silver charm. "Now watch."

We both watched as the drop of blood shrank, the crimson liquid being absorbed by the metal. When the drop was completely gone, the metal changed. In the center of where the droplet hit, a pinpoint of darkness grew and spread across the fox, retaining the details but coloring the fur. When the darkness reached the fox's eyes, it changed, dying the eyes a pale lavender. I smiled and pulled out my own necklace, already changed. The blond was just as bright as my hair, the eyes the exact shade of my own.

"How did it-"

"This is a special metal, only forged in the demon's' realm, called chi tekko, blood steel. When you placed your blood on the metal, it absorbed your DNA and changed itself to match. The charm is now a part of you and it won't change again, not matter who bleeds on it. I've did the same with mine, to test it out before I gave you yours. Do you like it?" Hinata-chan's way of response was to kiss me on the cheek and give me a tight hug. It was then that I remembered the Branch member, the young woman who was probably returning from her walk right about now. "Oh my gosh, we've got to get you home!"

"Up for another race? No weights all the way to the Hyuuga gates?"

"You're on. Kai," I muttered. Hinata-chan formed the ram seal and murmured 'kai' before shifting into the runner's pose.

"On your mark… Get set… Go!" She shouted and we dashed back towards Konoha.


~Back in the Clearing~

"Niku Bunshin no Jutsu," I muttered, biting my thumb as I added my blood to the jutsu. I stumbled as I felt the chakra leave my chakra coils. Instead of a cloud of smoke, the flesh clone materialized out of the shadows of the trees, a joking light in the eyes of the other Naruto.

"Yo, Boss."

"Hey. Do you know what to do?" I asked my clone.

"Yep. Be loud, act stupid, and annoy Iruka-sensei. Anything else?"

"Yes. I've given you enough chakra that you do have some sentience unlike more primitive clones. You're going to grow and you won't poof away the first time you're hit. You'll be able to heal and to mend. With that in mind, that does not mean you should take unnecessary risks. You have our memories- stay as close to the original timeline as possible."

"Uh, Boss? No offense, but you got beat up by Sasuke-teme's fan girls a lot. Do I have to go through that again?"

"I'm sorry but you do. I've given you enough demonic chakra that you should heal as fast as I do but that's the best I can give you. I'll be back as soon as I can, but until then I'm afraid you're stuck with Sakura. Don't insult Sasuke-teme too much and avoid getting slammed into Sasuke. I don't need that memory twice," I shuddered.

"Is that all?"

"Yep. Go meet Kakashi then do whatever I- we- would do. Have fun," I smiled at my clone and he darted into the Forest of Death, following my familiar route out. "You can come out now, Hina-chan," I said, looking at where my mate was hiding. She stepped out of the bushes with as much dignity as she could muster and walked over to me.

"Are you sure about this?"

"Positive. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. It's you I'm worried about. Remember the Hiraishin. I've been practicing it, I think I've got it down." I said, pulling out one of my father's special kunai and twirling it in my hand before throwing it across the clearing and into a tree trunk. I closed my eyes in concentration and followed the seal's signature. When I opened my eyes the next second, I stood at the tree, one hand on the kunai. I smiled at it briefly before depositing it back into the pocket I had reserved for the Hiraishin.

"Show-off," I heard Hinata-chan mutter on the other side of the clearing. I grinned, Shunshining back to her.

"You know, this is technically a Namikaze clan jutsu. Maybe I'll teach it to you in a few years."

"Maybe. I'm not sure I'd use it that much."

"What? Don't want there to be a Raven Flash? Hmm… What would your Bingo Book name be?"

"I've never thought about that. What about you?"

"Well, Yellow Flash was already taken," I said winking before Hinata-chan raised her fist. "I guess I haven't thought about it that much. I'm already the Fox Sannin and Fox Sage. Isn't that enough?"

"I don't think so. You're seven years old, nobody calls you that now," Hinata-chan reasoned. "Shi Kitsune?"

"Death Fox? I don't know… Oh, I know," I said mysteriously, grinning, the perfect name coming to mind.

"What?"

"Check the Bingo Book in a few months. I'll be there."

"And what are you going to be doing to get into the Bingo Book? Keep in mind you're seven. People aren't going to take you seriously."

"Probably not, but that's what's going to circulate more rumors. How exactly was a seven year old able to infiltrate and destroy one of Orochi-teme's bases? Could he really use the Rasengan?"

"You're having too much fun with this."

"I don't think so. If I make a name for myself now, I could stop Orochi-teme from giving Sasuke the cursed seal."

"But if you do that, he doesn't leave, and that's what triggered a lot of what we know… I got it!"

"What?"

"Let him get the seal but beat Orochimaru up so he'll be weaker for the battle with Sandaime-sama. Then, right after he gets the seal, you go into his mindscape with the Yamanaka jutsu and kill the part of Orochimaru's soul. That way he'd keep the power but stay sane without that snake whispering in his head," Hinata-chan explained. I stood there for a moment, dumbstruck.

"Why didn't I think of that?"

"Because you aren't Shikamaru. Or me," Hinata-chan teased, a small smile on her face. The smile fell into a frown as I picked up my backpack off of the ground. "Are you sure about this?"

"I'm positive. I've already made the flesh clone and he has his instructions. I'll be back and no one will be the wiser." Hina-chan smiled sadly and raised a hand to her necklace. "Remember, give it chakra and I'll know. I'll be there, I promise." I gave her a tight hug before I looked into the forest, the opposite direction from Konoha.

"I guess you should get going," Hinata-chan sniffed.

"I'll be back as soon as I can. I even put a Hiraishin seal in my room in Kakashi's apartment so I could get back that much faster."

"Well, wait are you waiting for? Get going, fox," Hinata-chan laughed, wiping her watery eyes.

"I'll see you later, vixen," I grinned before Shunshining into the forest. Glancing back, I saw Hina-chan wipe her eyes before smiling and waving in my direction.

You're so whipped.

Shut up Kyuu. I'm going into Sage mode. I need to be in Suna as fast as possible, I said, getting into the lotus position. I felt Kyuubi shrink back in my mind, allowing me to fully relax and sense the nature chakra around me. I absorbed as much as my body could balance and opened my eyes. Sage mode for the Demon Fox Sage was a strange thing. Unlike the other Sage forms, such as Toad, I didn't remain humanoid. Instead of gaining a few attributes of a fox, I completely turned into one, a blond fox with blue eyes just a shade darker than my own. This form was my trump card, not many ninjas know how to attack a fox.

I glanced behind me and saw five tails slashing the air behind me. If I had eyebrows, they would've been raised.

Hey Kyuu, didn't I have three tails last time I went into Sage mode?

Yeah but then you trained your ass off. Congrats, you're a five tail. That was good enough to be in my honor guard. Do you feel honored?

You, the all-powerful Kyuubi no Yoko, had an honor guard? For what, tea parties?

Kit, he growled warningly. That guard were my personal soldiers, don't disrespect them. They're like what's-his-names' ninjas. Danzo?

ROOT? I'd call them more puppets than soldiers.

What's the difference? And shouldn't you be running? Something about saving the Shukaku kid?

Damn, I almost forgot. I pressed my paws to the ground before leaping to the treetops. I forgot how fast this form is, I said, running over the quickly disappearing trees.

You're just lucky you spent all that time practicing it. I remember when you just learned this form and you kept running into trees! Kyuubi laughed, his chuckled booming in my ears. I ignored my old friend as the terrain shifted into a grassy plain riddled with boulders.

I stopped for the night when I could see the desert on the horizon. I shifted out of Sage form, stretching painfully as my bones and muscles grew and shrank into my natural human form. I quickly made two shadow clones, one to hunt and another to help me set up camp and gather firewood. The clones darted into the tall grass, ready to complete their assigned chore while I reached into my backpack and brought out one of my scrolls. I undid the seal on the paper and began to set up the tent.

When the tent was set up and my belongings safely put away I heard my clones returning.

"Report?" I asked, wondering if there was anything out of the ordinary.

"There wasn't much out there," my hunting clone said, holding up a dead rabbit. "There were a few Konoha nin plowing through the woods, scaring everything else away. I assume they were on their way to Suna judging from the direction they were running. They're taking a less direct route- around the majority of the desert- so we should be fine. They didn't have a tracker with them."

"Good," I said quietly, taking the rabbit as my other clone placed the dry wood a distance from my tent. "Anything out of the norm on your end?"

"Nope. Just the average plains animals. No summons that I detected or any ninjas hiding around," 'I' said, light the fire. When two clones had reported, they disappeared in a puff of smoke. I started cooking the rabbit over the fire when an idea popped into my head.

"Kuchiyose no jutsu!"

"Hey, Naruto-sama. What is it this time? Where are you?" My youngest summons asked me.

"Hello Koyuki. I was wondering if you'd like to join me. This is the Suna/Konoha border. I'm going to visit an old friend."

"Which one? Temari-chan?" Koyuki's eyes lit up. Strangely, she had enjoyed hearing about the Sand ninja. She seemed to share a kinship of sorts with the blond kunoichi.

"No, her younger brother, Gaara."

"The redhead? Shukaku's vessel?"

"Yes. I've been working on a seal to strengthen Gaara's original seal. When he was younger, the old raccoon drove him nearly insane. It was only after I beat him up at the Chuunin exams that he calmed down."

"Sure, I'll come. Who knows? I might get to meet Temari-chan."

"You will. She was very protective about her brothers. Just remember that nothing you know about happened yet. She's just a kid. And try not to talk until I tell you it's okay. I'd rather not scare them off. Their father should still be Kazekage."

"Deal. Are you going to eat that?" Koyuki asked, staring hungrily at the finished rabbit. I laughed and took it off the fire before splitting the meat evenly between us. We sat in front of the fire for a while longer, just talking and joking around. When I got tired, Koyuki agreed to keep watch and I fell asleep in my tent, watching Koyuki's shadow pace the camp before sitting in front of my tent.

Chapter Text

I watched, hidden under a genjutsu, as Sabaku no Gaara, age six, stood at his window, looking out the village that hated him for something and everything that was out of his control. I stood frozen, for just a moment, staring at the younger Gaara. He looked different but I couldn't place what was out of place. I shook my head once, running through the Yamanaka seals, whispering 'Odayakana shinryaku no jutsu' as I prepared to enter his mindscape. Glancing at the busy streets, he felt a wave of envy greet him before it was warded off by anger.

How could they be so happy? What makes them so different from me? He thought to himself.

You are nothing like them, a voice whispered in his head. You are better than them, those fools should be praising you, not treating you like filth.

What should I do, Mother? I'm so alone. He sat at his bed, his head hanging in his small hands.

You're never alone. I'm always here. And one day you shall have your revenge. You shall force them to repay every pain you've suffered.

When, Mother? I'm not strong enough.

Soon, child. I will make you stronger. All you need to do is-

"Stop listening to Shukaku, Gaara. Everything your 'Mother' has said is a lie. He wants to make you strong so that you can crush those who have mistreated you. I want to make you strong to protect your precious people," I told him clearly. Gaara's head shot up and lost focus slightly, drifting over my genjutsu, before refocusing.

Who- Who are you?

"I'm like you. I was alone, I was hated by everyone. But you need to listen to me. I'll show you how I made them accept me. You can stop hurting people you hate and start protecting the ones who love you."

No one loves me, Gaara insisted to the mysterious voice in his mind, my voice.

"Temari. Kankuro. They love you. Even now, when you only destroy, they will still protect you at any cost. You are family, their little brother."

Who are you?

"I've told you. I'm-" "Like you." Gaara jumped at my voice, no longer in his head. I removed the genjutsu from my hiding spot and appeared in the windowsill. "Kiiroi Kitsune, at your service."

The redhead's eyes went wide at the sight of the me before rolling back in his head. I only chuckled, having expected such a reaction from my young, old friend. My eyes narrowed ever so slightly as I learned what was off about his appearance. The kanji for love was completely absent from his features.

His uncle hadn't tried to kill him yet. Perhaps I should have come a little later… That's a turning point in his life…

I was about to take a step closer to him when a shadow appeared over the doorway and I heard a voice. Glancing over, I recognized the spiky blonde hair and the large fan. She couldn't have been more than nine years old but the blonde was definitely Sabaku no Temari. I stifled a smile at seeing her again.

"What are you doing here? What did you do to Gaara?" She asked, trying to sound threatening but even I could hear the fear and anxiety in her voice. I kept my voice low, knowing that I'd rather not hurt Temari. Not to mention Koyuki would attack me.

"I came here to visit your youngest brother. Don't worry, I haven't done anything. He was just a little… surprised at seeing me."

"Why did you come here? What do you want?" Temari demanded, holding her kunai at an awkward angle. I sighed.

"You're holding the kunai wrong. If you keep it like that, you're hand is going to cramp up and you'll drop the kunai," I coached. "I'm only here because I know what's been happening to your little brother and I can help him."

"Help him? You're younger than I am!"

"And I'm the son of the Yondaime Hokage. I've mastered two of his original jutsu, the Rasengan and the famous Hiraishin, which earned him the name 'Konoha's Yellow Flash'. I've been living with an ANBU captain all my life and have a summoning contract. I know what I'm doing," I insisted, resisting the urge to roll my eyes at the fiery kunoichi. I knew Temari, if I stepped out of line, the first thing she'd do was hit me. Temari punches almost as hard as Hinata-chan.

"Okay, you have my attention. What do you want to do?"

"All I wanted to do was place this seal over the seal holding Shukaku captive. It will strengthen the seal and keep the Ichibi out of his head. He'll still have his control over sand- yes I know about that ability- but he won't have the demon whispering in his head unless Gaara chooses to start a conversation."

"And how do you know this will work? What if you're wrong and you end up releasing Shukaku? This could all just be a trap for the Sand!"

"Listen to yourself, Temari. What would the Leaf gain from destroying Suna? Sand? We don't like sand that much. We wouldn't survive as well as you have for generations. You're adapted to this area, we're adapted to the forests.

"As for the seal, I'm sure it will work. I've already used it," I said, opening my vest and sending chakra to my seal, making both layers of ink appear. "This is the seal that my father used on me. The one on top of it is the seal that I invented. It allows me to use more of Kyuubi's chakra without losing my mind." I explained, chuckling to myself when Temari took a few steps back, in front of Gaara protectively.

"Y-You're the-"

"Kyuubi jinchuuriki. But you can call me Kiiroi Kitsune," I grinned my trademark grin, laughing as Temari's eyes rolled back and she landed on the bed next to her brother. Needless to say, Kyuubi was very amused, judging from his roars of laughter. "Hmm… I hope Kankuro is busy. I'm not sure if I take him seriously if I saw him as an eight year old."

"Can I come out now?" A voice asked from outside.

"Sure thing, Koyuki. She and Gaara are unconscious." I called back, laughing at the two future ninjas. Gaara of the Sand, the youngest Kazekage and his sister, Temari of the Sand, the most powerful Wind Mistress to ever come out of Suna; both passed out at the sight of a seven year old. In all fairness, that seven year old was the future Rokudaime, the one and only Kitsune-Sennin, and one of the Neo Sannin. "Don't hit me, Koyuki, she only passed out when she figured out that I'm Kyuubi's jinchuuriki."

"I wasn't going to hit you. Probably," she countered playfully.

"You know, you really are like Temari. Hit first, ask questions later. And you both can use wind nature chakra."

Koyuki jumped onto the bed and began licking Temari awake. Temari shifted in her sleep before slowly opening her eyes to Koyuki's gentlest smile. Her mouth moved soundlessly and I leapt forward, picking Koyuki up gently and placing her on my shoulder, keeping a hand on Temari's mouth to prevent her from screaming.

"Calm down, it's okay. She is one of my summons. She's not going to bite you or anything," I calmed the younger Temari. Her wide eyes eventually narrowed and she bit my hand. "OW! Was that really necessary?"

"I thought so," she bristled. "So you summon foxes now?"

"I told you I had a summoning contract. You never asked which one. This is Koyuki. She's one of my favorites," I said, scratching Koyuki behind the eyes. She purred loudly and leaned into my hand, playing cute for Temari. It worked. Temari's eyes softened watching the young vixen, her features moving into a soft smile. "Do you want to hold her?"

"Really?" Temari asked, smiling shyly at Koyuki. I glanced at Koyuki and she nodded. I nodded in return and gently placed the dark fox in Temari's arms.

"I think she likes you," I mentally smirked, watching Koyuki stretch in Temari's arms, letting her reach her belly. The vixen purred loudly and licked Temari's hand, who laughed under her breath. "Kuchiyose no jutsu," I bit my thumb and touched the ground, causing a puff of smoke to rise up. The smoke parted to reveal a small tan fox with large ears. She lifted her chocolate eyes to meet mine and I nodded swiftly. "Please wake up Gaara, Neko. Be gentle. he's had a strange day so far."

Neko nodded her head and shook her sandy fur before jumping onto the bed and walking to Gaara. She began to purr loudly and rubbed her head against his cheek. The redhead chuckled and woke up slowly, opening his eyes to see my tan fox, specially trained in sand natured chakra, purring against his cheek. He must've sensed his kinship with the fox's chakra, immediately reaching out a hand to pet Neko.

"So you're finally up," a voice said, making Temari freeze. The future kunoichi stiffly looked at the blue-grey fox still in her arms. Koyuki's eyes met mine, sending me a silent apology for blowing her cover already.

"Um- what's your name again?" She asked me.

"Kiiroi Kitsune. Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto."

"Okay, Naruto. Did your fox just talk?"

"Yes? She's been trying to learn English so she can communicate with humans."

"And why can your fox speak English?"

"First, her name is Koyuki. You've probably heard of other summons talking, why should foxes be any different?" I retorted. Temari seemed at a loss for words for a moment before returning her hand to Koyuki, scratching behind her ears, just like I did.

"Can you talk too?" Gaara asked Neko shyly, who shook her head sadly.

"While Koyuki is my youngest summon, Neko is one of my most recent. I rescued Koyuki when I was training in the middle of a snowstorm last winter. That, and her chakra affinity, ice, is why I named her Koyuki, powder snow. I met Neko on my way here actually. I had just entered the desert and found Neko, dehydrated and wounded, under a sand dune. I gave her some water and healed her wounds and she agreed to be one of my summons. From my other fox summons, I figure it can take a fox anywhere between two and four months to learn how to speak English although they can understand it within a week," I explained. Temari ignored me, continuing to pet Koyuki while Gaara nodded, a serious expression on his face.

"Isn't there a clan in Konoha that uses dogs? Is there a family that uses foxes?"

"Yes and no. The Inuzuka clan specializes in raising and training ninja hounds. To them, dogs are their partners and equals. There is no clan in Konoha that trains foxes. Ever since Kyuubi attacked seven years ago, foxes have been unofficially banned from the Hidden Leaf. I only get around that rule by training in the Forest of Death."

"The Forest of Death? I've heard about that place! It's supposed to be filled with all kinds of monsters and animals!" Temari exclaimed, eyes wide.

"It is. They leave me alone though. Most of the times I go there, I'm surrounded by foxes or practicing high ranking jutsu such as the Rasengan or the Chidori. Either way, I'm left in peace to train. Even the ninjas from Konoha try to avoid the Forest of Death."

"So why are you in Suna? Shouldn't you be in the Academy or something?" Gaara asked, smiling at Neko.

"I should be, yeah. As I explained to your sister, I'm here to help you. I know about Shukaku and everything that this village has done. I'm the Kyuubi jinchuuriki. If you're anything like me, you've been alone for most of your life, the village looking down on you, even though your father is the Kazekage. I know, I'm the Yondaime Hokage's son."

"I didn't know that the Yondaime Hokage had a son," Gaara said, his eyes narrowing in confusion.

"Most of the other villages think I died when I was born. My father made a lot of enemies in the Third Great Shinobi War. Iwa, for example, would be happy to try and capture me as payment for all the devastation my father caused to their people."

"Oh… So why are you in Suna? I don't think you answered."

"I didn't, you're right. I'm here to help you. I know you're pesky Ichibi friend has been talking to you and I can help you make him shut up. I created a seal to help contain a bijuu's conscious. It will still be there but the entity, in your case Shukaku, will be kept more distanced from your own mind. I already used the seal on myself. At this moment, I could talk to Kyuubi and he can talk back to me but he can't do anything more than that. He has no control on anything but the amount of his chakra he adds to my reserves. For example, if I give you this seal, you will keep your ability to control sand. Also, if you get on really good terms with Shukaku, he might even give you the demon raccoon summoning contract. It does exist; I've even signed the demon fox contract."

"Really?" Gaara asked, his eyes wide as he tried to process all of the information I was feeding him. "Can I see?"

"I suppose, if you really want. Stay still and try not to faint again. I'm going to summon a four tailed fox. Kuchiyose no jutsu: Zoran!"

"Naruto-sama!" A large blue-black fox appeared in a poof of smoke, sounding a little surprised at its summoning. "Is something the matter?"

"Not at all, Zoran-san. I thought you might want to meet Shukaku-san's vessel, Sabaku no Gaara. Gaara, this is Zoran my guard's second lieutenant." I introduced the two, watching as they studied each other. Zoran's eyes noted the dark circles around Gaara's eyes and smirked lightly, knowing what his old one-tailed friend had been trying. The insomniac himself was staring at the four tailed demon, his eyes drifting from his blue-black head to the tips of each tail, shining a light red-orange.

"Um, hello.' Gaara said awkwardly, his eyes locked onto the four tails cutting the air behind Zoran. The tails immediately stopped moving and curled against Zoran's back.

"I know, they're distracting. So, this is Shukaku-san's vessel… Hmm," Zoran said, walking around Gaara in a circle. "He could be worse I suppose…"

"Zoran, he is only six. He has a lot of potential and you know it. I'm sure he's practicing his sand manipulation, trying to get it out of Shukaku's control. I bet you can guess what your old friend has been doing."

"Ah, yes. That raccoon never could control his blood thirst. It was great for bloody rampages back in the day, but it's getting a little old, don't you think so, Shika?" Zoran asked Gaara, looking him in the eyes.

"I don't know what you're-"

Zoran, it's been a long time, old friend, Shukaku said inside Gaara's head.

"Just a second…" Zoran grinned, placing the tip of one of his tails on Gaara's forehead. "Try saying something, Shika."

"I forgot that trick actually works, Zoran. It's been too long."

"Well that tends to happen when you go and get yourself sealed into humans. They don't let you have any fun. At least Naruto-sama is civil to Kyuubi-sama. But enough about the Kiiroi Kitsune. What's this I hear about you? Giving this Gaara boy some trouble, are we?"

"It's not my fault. The boy's uninteresting. I have to take over and kill the assassins his teme of a father sends his way. The boy's too weak to take a life without me," Shukaku complained.

"Come on, Shukaku. You're a big demon. Instead of haunting Gaara why don't you make him stronger, train him? Just look at Kyuu and I. We get along, he's even given me the demon fox summoning scroll. I get stronger, he gets summoned every now and then- as long as he doesn't go on a rampage. Why don't you and Gaara have something like that?" I asked, deciding to jump in.

"Because, 'Yellow Fox', this kit is boring. You can talk to me about potential when everything you know happens again. If you're so interested in him, why don't you train him? Hmm?"

"I can't. I have to establish my network. If you know what I know, you know he needs to be in Suna for his family. If that doesn't happen, he might not make it to the exams," I explained, earning confused looks from both Gaara and Temari.

"What are you two talking about?" Temari asked, looking up from Koyuki.

"A very long, complicated, and involved story that explains my entire existence. I'd tell you, but it could put myself as well as well as the people I love in danger."

"Why? Are you a spy?" Temari asked in a teasing tone. When I didn't respond, she gasped. "What!"

Chapter Text

"How does Konoha not know where you are?" Gaara asked, trying to ignore his sister, who was currently bouncing off of the walls.

"Kami, does that cub ever shut up!"Shukaku growled, making the excited blond slow to a stop.

"How could I? He's a-"

"I'm not a spy, Temari. Yes, I'm setting up a spy network, but that doesn't actually make me a spy. Being in charge doesn't mean I have to follow the same profession."

"Oh, really? So what are you?"

"Right now? I'm a normal seven year old sitting in Academy classes bored out of my mind."

"You mean they don't know you're here?" Gaara surmised. I smiled at the six year old, impressed at his understanding of the situation.

"No, they don't. If you would be quiet, I'd be able to explain everything. Well, not everything, but enough for you to understand," I said, rubbing my temples. Temari shut her mouth and nodded for me to continue before reaching for Koyuki, now curled around my shoulder. I let her take the ice fox before sitting on the edge of Gaara's bed. "As I said, the Konoha ninja don't know I'm here. I left behind a more evolved clone behind to sit through Academy classes while I travel, train, and set up my network. Any questions so far?"

"What kind of clone did you leave? I'm try to learn how to do a Bunshin but I can't get it right."

"I actually left a Niku Bunshin. I'm not sure where I learned it, it's just been in my head for a while," I half-lied. I had learned the Niku Bunshin from one of Kabuto's medical scrolls that Sai and I had found while ransacking one of Orochi-teme's bases.

"A flesh clone? Is that even possible?"

"It's possible but it eats up a lot of chakra so I don't use it. I usually use Kage Bunshin because I learn everything they've discovered and I don't get hurt if I send them into dangerous territory. Kage Bunshin was the first technique I mastered. Anyway, I'm getting off topic; I left a clone. I told him exactly what to do, how to act, et cetera. I told two people that I was leaving- two people I shall not reveal or explain my reasons for telling them."

"Why do you need a spy network?"

"I have plans in the future. For some of them, I need a good spy network. I know for a fact that they're going to be people after me because of who I am. If I have a network, I can avoid them until I'm strong enough to confront them. If not, I'm sure it'll be useful when I show up as the Kitsune-Sennin."

"You can go into Sage mode? Already?"

"Shukaku, you should know what I'm capable of. Or do you not remember what Kyuubi told all of the demon lords when we went through?" I asked the demon. I heard Gaara start to ask me a question when there was a knock at the door.

"Gaara? Are you in there?" A man's voice asked. Gaara's eyes immediately brightened and he grinned.

"Hey, Yashamaru-ojisan!" Gaara called back.

"Gaara, can come out here for a bit? I need to talk to you!" Yashamaru asked through the closed door. My mind started working on overdrive. When Gaara was six, an attempt was made on his life. It was a regular occurrence by now, his father would regularly send ninjas after him to assassinate the Shukaku. But this attempt was different, this time the Yondaime Kazekage, Gaara's father, ordered his brother-in-law to kill the young jinchuuriki. The brother-in-law had raised Gaara to believe that he cared about him, only to stab him in the back.

I knew I couldn't see this man and allow him to survive. Gaara needed to chase down all of his demons, no pun intended. When Gaara and Temari were both turned to the door, I made my escape, leading Koyuki and Zoran out of the window and onto the roof, able to hear but not be seen.

"Hey Naruto- Naruto?" I heard Gaara ask behind me, his young voice confused and just a little concerned.

"Where'd he run off to now?" Temari grumbled. "Aw, he took Koyuki-chan with him!" On the roof, Koyuki looked at me smugly.

"See, she likes me too," she whispered to me, a grin on her face. I rolled my eyes and held a finger to my lips, asking her to remain quiet. I heard a door open below us and someone enter Gaara's bedroom.

"Hello, Gaara. Temari," the man said, trying to keep the surprise out of his voice. "What are you doing here? I thought your father wanted to talk to you. Something about giving you an early birthday present? I think he said something about your mother's fan…" His voice drifted off as Temari squeaked and ran to hug him.

"Thanks for telling me! I'll see you later, Gaara!"

"Bye Temari, say hello to Father for me," Gaara said with as little venom as he could manage. Temari rushed out of the door and out of the house, appearing below me in the street, running towards the Kazekage's Tower as the sun began to set.

Making a spur of the moment decision, I ran to catch up with Temari. When she reached the door to the Tower, she was met by me, leaning against the wall.

"There you are, Naruto-kun. Did you need to talk to Father or something?" Temari asked as her eyes searched for Koyuki. Not seeing her, her face settled into a disappointed pout.

"Not exactly, I was wondering if you could do me a favor."

"It depends on the favor," Temari responded suspiciously.

"I heard that you want to use a battle fan. Do you have wind natured chakra?"

"Yeah, what of it?"

"Well, I was kind of hoping you'd take in a kit that I found a few weeks ago. She has wind chakra as well, so I thought she might be a good partner for you. She also seems to have some talent with medical ninjutsu from what I've seen; when I found her, she had a broken leg that was healing a lot more quickly than usual. I can show her to you if you'd like," I said, hoping Temari would adopt the fox. She seemed to think about it for a moment before nodding quickly.

"Let me see her," she smiled expectantly.

"Kuchiyose no jutsu," I murmured, going through the seals and biting my thumb before slamming my palm on the dirt. A small cloud of smoke appeared, parting to show a tiny kit that was maybe four weeks old cradled in my hands. She had thick yellow fur with a white muzzle and throat. Her hazel eyes were open and blinking in the setting sun's light. "I'm pretty sure she's a Corsac fox. They're supposed to have a really good sense of smell keen hearing. They aren't the fastest runners, but can out climb anything. Other than that, she was orphaned and I found her when she was about a week and a half old, her eyes still shut. If you don't want her I can-" I was forced to shut up, Temari's hand slammed down on my mouth.

"She's so small."

"If I'm right about her breed, she should grow until she's about three feet, nose to tail, and about a foot and a half tall. I could be wrong, but I don't think so," I said, smiling at the orphaned vixen. She grinned back at me, making Temari chuckle. I gently laid the kit in her hands and she jumped slightly. "If she spends time around you, she should learn English within a few months. She can already eat meat, give her a few live mice and insects and she'll be fine. Anything else, you can learn from her. I'm sure she understands everything we're saying now," I said, the kit confirming my conclusion by nodding slowly.

"What's her name?"

"She doesn't have a name yet, actually. If I raise a fox, I don't name them unless I'm sure they won't be released. If you hadn't taken her, I'd probably release this girl in a month or so. Why don't you name her?"

"Sunaarashi," she whispered. "Sandstorm."

I smiled. It was a good name, matching her tawny pelt. "Take good care of her. I won't summon her again, as long as you watch over her," I told Temari.

"Why does that sound like a goodbye?"

"Because it is. How about this: make it to the Chuunin exams in Konoha with Gaara and Kankuro and I'll see you there."

"But the Chuunin exams were-"

"Don't worry about it. They should be hosted again in Konoha in five years, according to Sandaime Hokage. And if someone by the name of Orochimaru comes to Suna, play along at all costs. He won't hesitate to kill you if you don't obey him. I'll see you later, Temari," I gave her a quick hug before Shunshining away. Looking back, I saw Temari glance at the kit in her hands and smile before turning into the Kazekage tower to receive her mother's battle fan, her inheritance.

"Good luck, Naruto-kun. I'll see you soon," her voice drifted over the distance, picked up by my enhanced senses. I frowned, remembering the last time she had said that to me, in the ruins of Konoha. I shook the sense of foreboding and walked back to Yashamaru and Gaara's home, enjoying the night until a scream was heard, ricocheting off of Suna's buildings. It rebounded in my ears, impacting my senses from every angle.

What? Where did that come from?

You know, somewhere up there, Shinigami-sama and Kami-sama are laughing their asses off. Think kit, what happens this year? You thought about right before you went to go flirt with the other annoying blond?

I was not flirting, I love Hinata-chan. And what are you talking a- Oh no! Not now, not today! I thought, the color draining out of my face. Kyuubi nodded once.

The timeline fits just right. Like it or not, Shika is having some fun with Gaara's uncle and Gaara's not trying to stop him, Kyuubi confirmed. I ran across Suna in a blur, canceling my weights in order to get to the house as fast as possible. An explosion shook the village and I sprinted to the source.

There, on the roof, Gaara stood overlooking the village with a mad look in his eyes. Not anger-mad, pure insanity-mad. Shukaku mad. I watched, too slow, as Gaara lifted his hand and the sand obediently drifted to his forehead before etching the kanji for love permanently in his skin. When I reached the roof, I stopped, sending out a short burst of demonic chakra, meant to temporarily remove Shukaku from control. Gaara's balance failed him and the six year old went tumbling to the ground, right off the roof. I darted out and caught him right before he hit the floor. I took one look at the Village Hidden in the Sand then took off for the desert, unconscious Gaara in tow.

Camped once again on the Suna/Konoha border, I set up a tent and laid Gaara to sleep, my original seal already in place. In the past when Gaara had tried to sleep, the Ichibi had taken control, eating away at Gaara's humanity and soul, making him fear sleep. Now with their consciousnesses more separate, Gaara could sleep without fear, getting rest for the first time in his life.

I sat down in front of my fire, contemplating how to move forward. I didn't think I could allow Gaara to return to Suna, even with the seal in place. If only I hadn't came to Suna on this day, I screamed at myself, making Kyuubi wince at the anger I had directed at myself.

I know you feel bad kit, but this isn't your fault. Personally, I blame the cub's teme of a father. I know humans are low, but harming your own kits? That's just cruel, Kyuubi shook his head, the gentle parent in him coming out. Watching him in my mindscape, I got a brilliant idea.

Hey, Kyuu. How would you like to be summoned? If the moment of shock wasn't answer enough, the slightly sadistic chuckle following it was.

I like the way your brain works, kit. You know, when it works, he smirked, ready to get out for the first time in seven years.

Just let me write the dear Kazekage a little letter first.

Take all the time you need. I can wait a few minutes to see his face.

Just remember, don't kill anyone. I can't have Suna declare war on Konoha for having a demon fox rampaging through their village.

… Not even a little rampage?

No Kyuubi, I said, rolling my eyes at the billions-of-years-old demon acting so childishly. I got out a unmarked scroll and pen and began to write.


Dear Yondaime Kazekage,

I'm sending you this letter to report that your youngest son, Sabaku no Gaara, is anything but deceased. I am personally ashamed of and offended by your behavior, both as a Kage and also as a father, and if I hear that you have taken so much as a step out of line, I shall return to Suna and take something much more valuable to you, such as your life.

I'm fully aware of Gaara's position, as well as his potential power, as the Shukaku's jinchuuriki. You are a fool for deciding his fate so young. With the proper training and control, I have no doubt in my mind that Gaara will be on level with the Kage, if not above them, by his sixteenth birthday. On that day, I have even fewer doubts that he shall come and claim the position of Kazekage from you. That is of course, under the assumption that no other decides to remove you from office, peaceably or not.

As for Gaara's training, I myself have resigned myself to be his mentor. I shall teach him everything that your village would no doubt deem unnecessary or impossible for him to grasp. I shall ensure he grows in strength before allowing him to return to Suna which I shall grant as soon as I believe him able to protect himself from the fools that are so publicly praised in Suna. That said, do not presume that you are able to bully my student when he eventually does return to Suna; if he leaves you alive, then it shall be against my wishes. I know that I wouldn't have that much self-control. Let it be known to you that, if Gaara does choose to be merciful and leave you in one piece, that that is a show of his strength, not his weakness.

If you have any questions, or wish to see your son, too bad. You gave up your rights as a father, both to Gaara and your other two children, the moment you first sent an assassin after your youngest. I shall keep you informed on his most recent progress but don't be fooled. It is not out of compassion for you that I shall information. It is rather my own selfish whims, wanting you to spend every night thinking of the young boy that you cursed then tossed aside. As you fall asleep, think of the insomnia he suffered, knowing that if he succumbed to sleep, the demon you ordered into him would come alive and take control, eating away at his soul and humanity.

The next time you see a shadow or a flash of metal, I can assure you that I might be with it. Even as I write this, I'm very inclined to drop all pretenses and abandon all social niceties. You may be the Fourth Wind Shadow, but I can assure you there is more power out there, always out of your reach. There will always be another Yellow Flash, Sharingan Kakashi, Demon of the Bloody Mist, or Hanzo of the Salamander. A name is a beautiful thing, always ready to instill fear and hostility. Speak my name to the corners of our shinobi world. Spread word to every shinobi nation that your son and I shall return, much stronger and less merciful than you'd like to believe.

With Wishes of Misfortune,

Kiiroi Kitsune

the only Kitsune-Sennin


I read the letter over- once, twice- searching for any misspellings or wrongly worded threats. Content with the letter's message, I rolled the scroll up, placing two black ribbons on the end of the scroll; in the Suna message system, emergency letters were always marked with a double black ribbon showing that the information was highly classified. Most doubled black messages were only read by the current Kazekage and possibly the elders before they were burned.

My hands flew through the summoning seals, ready to mold the chakra needed to summon the demon fox boss, Kyuubi no Kitsune. "Kuchiyose no jutsu: Kyuubi!" I shouted, biting my thumb and slamming my hand to the grass. A large cloud of smoke erupted from the ground, dissipating to reveal me standing atop the nine tailed fox's head. Kyuubi, at his fullest height, roared to the sky, shaking the trees and sending all the birds and animals darting further into the trees, searching for a place to hide. I jumped off his head and he began to shrink until he was only seven feet tall. One of his tails whipped towards me, making me duck in favor of being decapitated.

"Whoa, watch it Kyuu. I actually like being in once piece," I laughed, placing the scroll next to his tail. The tail wrapped around the scroll, similar to a tentacle, before rejoining the other eight tails, thrashing the air behind him.

"Sorry kit. I'm not used to being out," Kyuu apologized, his head leaning down.

"It's okay. I probably should let you out more often. It's just that you let so much chakra pulse away from you when you first appear, even if you can tone it down later. That first wave would send every Konoha nin to the Forest of Death the first time I summoned." I smirked, patting Kyuubi's leg. "Do you know what to do?"

"Of course I do, I'm the all powerful Kyuubi."

"Yes, the all powerful Kyuubi no Yoko that managed to get sealed into an infant by a twenty- four year old."

"I'd remind you that said twenty-four year old is currently fighting my yang chakra for all eternity in a god's stomach, but I don't want to insult your family. You'll just dismiss me or something."

"Good Kyuubi. So the plan is basically get it and get out, no one the wiser except the Kazekage. I know you can do a wicked transportation jutsu; use that to get into the office. As much as I hate the guy, don't trash the office too much, the less evidence the better. If we convince his staff he's hallucinating, that'd be great too. If you're seen, just growl or something. They should back down. Give that letter to the Kazekage and no one else and-"

"Okay, okay! I get it! Is it okay if I stop by and say hello to little Sandstorm? I haven't seen her or Temari since the last timeline."

"You can't let Temari see you, you would just freak her out. No seven foot Kyuubi is visiting that kit. She's barely old enough to eat meat as it is."

"Eating meat has nothing to do with meeting your lord."

"Keep in mind Sandstorm doesn't actually know that she's a kitsune yet, Kyuubi. That transformation should stay locked for another year and a half or so. I'll come back to Suna when she's old enough to turn into a human but not before that. When she's ready, I'll take her to the demon realm and introduce her to your court. Would that make you happy?"

"Only if I'm summoned to the court."

"Deal. Now get going. Gaara should wake up soon." I playfully smacked Kyuubi's leg and he let out a warning growling before sniffing the air and disappearing in a cloud of smoke, leaving behind a kit, older than Sandstorm but younger than Koyuki, and a note.

I forgot to tell you. This is one of my daughter, Yuriko's, kits. She has, for whatever reason, decided to entrust you with her youngest vixen. Kit, meet Pyrai. Congrats, you're godfather. Have fun until I'm back,

Kyuu

Staring at the gold and red kit, only one word was going through my mind; what?

The kit was, quite frankly, adorable. She had a single tail, being as young as she was. Her fur was a golden blond that shone as it caught the moonlight. Her tail transitioned from the blond of her coat to a fiery orange that flickered as if it were alive. She had dark cocoa eyes that had a faint ember around the edges, eyes that were dangerous but ensnaring. I watched the kit, smiling gently, until I heard something I had definitely not expected.

"Are you going to keep staring at me or do you have something to eat? I'm starving," the kit said in a light tone, her eyes growing ravenous as her nose twitched, smelling the wild hen I had caught as it cooked over a fire.

"It's almost ready. Just out of curiosity, how old are you?"

"I'm about two hundred of your years, why?"

"Because you look a lot younger."

"Demon fox. We tend to do that," the kit said, rolling her eyes and squirming out of my hands. Once on the ground, she closed her eyes in concentration and I watched, mesmerized, as she transformed into a young girl right before my eyes. As a human she had short silver hair with a single blond streak in her bangs. Her eyes retained the red shimmer but now seemed more mischievous. She was pale skinned and had long limbs. She rolled her neck before taking a step closer to me and extended a hand to me. "I'm Pyrai. Nice to meet you."

"Namikaze Naruto. Likewise," I said, shaking her hand as Gaara flew out of the tent in a panic.

Chapter Text

Bursting out of the tent, Gaara recognized me and froze.

"Wha- What happened?" He asked, confused and disoriented.

"Don't worry, you're safe. After what happened with your uncle, I took you out of Suna. It's too dangerous for you there now, even with the little, erhm- message I sent to your father. I was about to send Temari a message saying that your alive, but I'm sure Kyuubi will give Sandstorm the message. He may be powerful, but subtle he is not," I said, shaking my head. Gaara paled- if that was possible- in the moonlight.

"Kyuubi?"

"Don't worry, he is a summons. I can dismiss him anytime. He won't step out of line with freedom so close and I've already ordered him not to kill anyone. He's to slip in, deliver a scroll to your father, give Sandstorm a message for Temari, and slip out before coming back here. Nothing he can't handle."

"So how can I sleep? Didn't Shukaku do anything when I was sleeping? And who is this?" Gaara asked, only now noticing Pyrai.

"I kind of put the strengthening seal on you when I knocked you out back in Suna. I thought you wouldn't mind. If it took, you shouldn't be able to hear Shukaku unless you want to. As for her, this is my… goddaughter? I'm not really sure. She's a-"

"Stop beating around the bush, Naruto. I'm a kitsune, cub. I'm one of Kyuubi's granddaughters. My mother, Yuriko, entrusted me to this little kit," she said, pointing to me.

"Who are you calling a kit? I'm twenty-eight years older than you!" I shouted. Age and height were always my two sensitive nerves. I was always the short kid until I went training with Ero-Sennin and I always seemed to be younger than everyone else in the Konoha 11.

"Good going, Naruto. You are aware that the cub didn't know who you are, right?"

"And you did?" I asked, shocked at how much the kitsune seemed to know.

"Of course I knew. Kyuubi-sama pretty much announced it to the entire royal court and, being Yuriko-hime's daughter entitles me to a seat in politics."

"What is going on here?" Gaara shouted, trying to overpower our bickering. I sighed, not sure how exactly to move forward. Frustrated, my hands formed a seal and I heard my voice shout out 'Henge!' A puff of smoke later I was my twenty-two year old self, Rokudaime/Sage coat and all.

"Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto, Rokudaime Hokage, Kitsune-Sennin, and Neo Sannin, Kiiroi Kitsune, and a bunch of other titles I don't bother with. The only one you need to know is-"

"Time-traveler," Pyrai said bluntly, deflating my ego. For the third time today, Sabaku no Gaara lost consciousness.

"And that is why I was going to sugar coat it," I said in a grunt, lifting Gaara easily and carrying him back to the tent.

"He's Shukaku-sama's vessel. He needs to grow a spine," Pyrai shrugged indifferently.

"You didn't have to say it like that. The kid has had a rough day. First me, then fox summons, then demon fox summons, then my disappearance, his uncle's assassination attempt, killing his uncle, carving love into his face, and being knocked out by yours' truly can really wear a six year old out."

"He doesn't have time to be a six year old. You have less then two years to train the kid before sending him back to Suna or smuggling him into Konoha. That's less time than what you had with Jiraiya-Sennin and then you still needed a lot of training before you took on anyone like Pain. There isn't enough time to coddle the cub, you need to train him until he can't move."

"I know that. I just can't imagine what this'll do to the timeline."

"It depends. Let the hebi take over Suna and he'll be welcomed, just in time for the Chuunin exams. Before that, you're going to have issues with the Kazekage."

"I know. I guess we'll have to play this by ear," I said, watching Gaara turn in his sleep. I was about to say something else but my thoughts were quickly scattered by a pulse of chakra I got from a far away Hiraishin seal. Hinata! "I need to-"

"I know. Go find your mate. I'll watch the cub."

"Thanks, Pyrai. Be back soon," I said, placing a Hiraishin onto the tent before pushing my chakra to Hinata-chan's necklace. I rode my chakra back to Konoha, where the wave ended. There, standing in the Forest of Death stood Hinata-chan with Itachi. At the sight of the raven-haired ninja, I couldn't help but shift into a defensive pose. Remembering where, and when, I was, I shifted out of the crouch, shrugging my shoulders apologetically.

"Sorry, Itachi. Wrong timeline. That's going to take some getting-"

"When did the Uchiha massacre take place? The date?" He asked, sounding desperate and keeping his eyes averted as Hinata-chan hung her necklace back around her neck, the blood steel glinting sharply in the moonlight.

At this point, I said something really intelligent like 'why?' but Itachi met my eyes. Two Mangekyou Sharingan pierced the darkness.

"It's soon. Today Danzo had him killed right in front of me. I couldn't even do anything. Shisui is gone," Itachi muttered, dropping his eyes to the ground again. Not knowing what else to do, I walked over to Itachi and put a hand on his shoulder. "What should I do?"

"I don't know, Itachi. You could make yourself an S-ranking missing nin and become Sasuke's reason for moving forward or you could try to go against Danzo and try to find a peaceful way to stop the coup with Hiruzen. I can't tell you what to do, Itachi. All I can is, either way, I'll do all I can to keep Sasuke in the village. Everything is out of my hands." I turned to Hinata-chan, who tackled me into a hug.

"I missed you," she whispered in my ear.

"Already? I haven't been gone a week. How's the clone doing?"

"Loud, confident, and getting touchy about his height. I'd say he's doing a pretty spot on performance. How are things at your end?"

"Actually, I haven't quite started," I said, scratching the back of my head nervously. Hinata-chan looked ready to explode before taking a deep breath and faking a smile.

"And what were you doing this entire time?" She pressed, adding so much killing intent to her words that even Itachi, the Uchiha prodigy, choked.

"Saving Gaara from Yashamaru, letting Temari down easy, giving away a baby kitsune that doesn't know she's a kitsune yet, meeting another kitsune who's my goddaughter. The usual unpredictable ninja news," I choked out, trying not to bite my tongue. The pressure disappeared and I could feel Hinata-chan's worry drifting over to me through the link.

"Is Gaara okay?"

"He should be. I might have taken him out of Suna and sent a strongly worded letter to his father."

"You threatened the Yondaime Kazekage after kidnapping his son?"

"Only after he sent dozens of assassins after Gaara, he's lucky he's alive, Kazekage or not. I'm going to be training Gaara to better use Shukaku's powers and how to get along with him. If we're lucky, he'll give him the raccoon summoning contract. That would be helpful in the future. I'll only be able to train him for a year or so before I come back here, at least for a while. In the meantime, you should practice your politics. Demons are just as concerned with images as Hiashi is. We need you to make an appearance before Kyuubi's court, sooner rather than later. Until you meet them, you can't have your own guard and you'll only be able to summon mortal foxes."

"Kyuubi's court?"

"Think of our ninja council. It's just a bunch of powerful demon foxes sitting together at a table with Kyuubi at its head. Fox politics and human politics are really similar; Kyuubi is like the Hokage, Yuriko is head ANBU, Zoran is an elder, and so forth. Back to foxes; I think you should start training a mortal pack while I'm away with Gaara."

"How? I can't speak fox and know nothing about training ninja foxes."

"Think about who has a major crush on you at this point in time," I smirked, remembering the Inuzuka's temper whenever I was seen near Hinata-chan. Her eyes looked confused before widening slightly.

"Kiba? You want me to ask Kiba for help?"

"Ninja dogs and ninja foxes are very similar. The only real difference is that foxes are generally smarter, faster, and smaller. They're good at infiltration although not usually as physically strong. As long as you make sure Kiba knows you aren't after his clan jutsu, I'm sure he'll help you. His clan is so close to animals, I don't think he'll mind bending the whole no-fox rule, especially if it's for you."

"You're really enjoying this, aren't you?" Hinata-chan asked, glaring at me. I grinned in response.

"Believe it," I chuckled, remembering my old catch phrase. The smile melted as Hinata-chan raised her fist threatening. "Once Kiba teaches you the basics, I can show you how to do the jutsu that I've invented specifically for foxes."

In the past timeline, I had not gotten the fox contract until I had become Hokage. In the midst of the Fourth Great Shinobi War, there was hardly enough manpower on our side. Each time one of our ninjas died, Kabuto had the option to resurrect them for his own uses, growing more powerful at each hit we took.

Discovering and testing my new bond with foxes, both mortal and demon, I created a number of techniques that, when used correctly, could have devastating results for the opposing side. Many of them were based on Inuzuka jutsu and all were just as effective if not more. With reinforcements, both mortal and demonic, we slowly began to push Madara's forces back.

Hey kit, where'd you go? A familiar voice rang in my head. I winced at the volume. Hina-chan looked at me with concern before nodding in understanding, Kyuubi's voice echoing through her seal.

"You know Kyuubi, you don't need to be that loud. Even I heard you."

Hey, Vixen. Haven't talked to you in a while, Kyuubi jumped, remembering just how violent an irate Hinata could be.

Yeah sure, be polite to her. I'm the one that let you out!

"You let him out? Why?" Hinata-chan questioned me.

Well, I said that I gave the Kazekage a strongly worded letter. Kyuu agreed to be courier.

Kit, you should have seen his face! Priceless! Kyuubi roared in laughter, making both of us wince. Sorry…

Control your volume, Kyuu. That hurts. I'll be back soon. Make sure Pyrai doesn't kill Gaara. Or let Shukaku out. I don't need two bloodthirsty demon lords and an equally sadistic kitsune. Gaara's had a long day.

I'll try. See you later, Kit, Vixen, Kyuubi said, using his nickname for Hina-chan. She blushed slightly and thought her goodbyes.

"So how am I starting my pack?" Hinata-chan asked as soon as Kyuu left our minds.

"Go to the Nara's. Ask them if you can take a walk in their woods. They might not advertise, but their forest is home to a number of foxes, as well as deer. If they don't want to let you in, tell them that you have the fox summoning contract, just don't tell them how you got it. They should let you in after that, they understand the bond between a summoner and the summons. But that can wait till tomorrow. For now, summon one of my mortal foxes, Kazura."

"Okay. Kuchiyose no jutsu: Kazura!" She said, flying through the seals and biting her thumb. The smoke parted, revealing a medium sized fox with dark brown fur, a single black stripe running down his chest.

"Hello, Kazura-kun."

"Yo, Naruto," he nodded as respectfully as he could before realizing something was off. "You didn't summon me."

"Nope. That was- hm, I guess she's my mate. This is Hyuuga Hinata-chan. Kyuubi-sama allowed her to sign the fox contract."

"Really?" Kazura said, raising his eyebrows in approval. "Sweet. So, why am I here?" He asked the raven-haired girl, who shrugged her shoulders.

"You are going to be Hinata-chan's translator. She's going to be training a pack of mortal foxes before she meets the high court," I explained. "Hina-chan, most foxes take an average of two to four months to learn how to speak English, sometime longer if they've never heard it before. Kazura will go with you into the Nara forest and act as your translator to any foxes you meet."

"Is that it?"

"Basically. I recommend looking for younger foxes to start. They'll bond to you more readily than some of the older, more experienced foxes. Some of the more stubborn foxes will want to make sure you deserve the contract but they should be more friendly if you say my name."

"Yeah, Boss has a big name in the fox world," Kazura laughed, making me blush slightly.

"It's not like I did anything to deserve it."

"Dude, you're Kyuubi-sama's vessel. That's enough to make you interesting. Add that to the fact that you get along with, can summon, and order the guy around makes you untouchable!"

"Not untouchable. Just a little intimidating. Anyway, you know I don't summon him too much, he can't really control his chakra for the first few seconds he's out. He either tries to destroy everything in a half mile radius or sends out a chakra pulse you can feel in Iwa."

"Whatever, it's cool. So you want me to help your mate get her own pack? No problem, I can handle that," he said, looking Hina-chan up and down before walking to her side and sitting down.

"I also need you to stay with her until I return or I summon you. If there is an emergency, Hina-chan knows what to do. I'm going to be on the road so it might be hard to contact me, but if you need to tell me something tell Kakashi to send Pakkun to me."

"Yes, sir," Kazura smirked teasingly.

"Do you want to see Kakashi-san while you're here?" Itachi asked. I jumped, forgetting he was there.

"Kakashi's a big ANBU captain, I don't think he'll need me to keep tabs on him. I can always send him a fox if I need to. Itachi, whatever you do, make sure Danzo guarantees Sasuke's safety. I don't care how you threaten him or persuade him but your brother is going to need protection from Hebi-teme."

"Hebi-teme?" Itachi asked, his eyebrows raised at the nickname.

"You know who I mean," I rolled my eyes. "Tell your summons to keep their ears open, Ero-Sennin is going to need all the information you can get him."

"No problem. I'll be going now. I- I'll see you later, Rokudaime," Itachi said. It looked like he wanted to tell me something, but thought better of if as he vanished into the trees. I stood, activating my demon eyes and watching him run back to Konoha. I could tell he was trying not to look back.

"He's going to do it, isn't he?" Hinata-chan said grimly. I nodded once and deactivated my dojutsu.

"I think so. I need to talk to him before he leaves Konoha. I'm going to check on Gaara and the others then come back, okay?"

"I'll be at Kakashi's. I'll signal you when it's safe for you to come."

"Thank you, Hina-chan. I love you," I said, pulling her into a tight hug. I felt her smile against my shoulder.

"Love you too Naruto-kun. See you soon," she whispered in my ear. I took a step back then remembered what was missing. I walked closer and pulled my mate into a kiss.

"I'll see you-"

Shut up and get over here kit! Shukaku isn't very happy right now! Kyuubi yelled, concern for his fellow demon softening his rough voice. Hina-chan's eyes widened in momentary shock. I smiled tightly, preparing for the Hiraishin.

"Demon time. See you as soon as Shukaku is calmed down." I closed my eyes and followed my chakra trail back to the Suna/Konoha border.

Chapter Text

Arriving in camp, I shook my head tiredly. Shukaku was now fully released, Gaara hidden somewhere out of sight. Pyrai was nowhere to be seen while Kyuubi stood in front of the sand demon, pinning him down with his tails.

"Shukaku… You'd think after what happened in the last timeline, you wouldn't pick a fight with me. I'm even stronger than last time."

"I don't care. If this is the only way I can talk without Zoran watching my every move! Now, I'm finally- What are you- No! You stupid-"

"Shukaku, really. Act your age. You're sealed into a cub. There is only so much you can do without forcing my hand," I said, laying my hand onto Shukaku's hide, fully activating the seal I had placed over Gaara's original seal. "This seal has more than one purpose. It allows me, as well as any other seal master, to feed off your chakra and cut you down to size. I'm a kit, he's a cub. What makes me interesting to you Shukaku? How easily I can get along with Kyuubi? Because I can assure you, he hated me for seventeen years of my life and I wasn't too fond of having a demon sealed within me until I figured out why my father entrusted his chakra to me. You were sealed to make the perfect weapon-"

"I was sealed to make a hero," Kyuubi finished for me. I placed a hand on his leg affectionately and we watched as Shukaku shrunk down to the size of a mortal raccoon and Gaara stumbled over to us, dazed.

"Wha- what happened?"

"Shika escaped but I brought him down. Say hello to your tenant Gaara. I forced him into this form," I said, smiling to the redhead before glancing back the tiny Ichibi demon. "Isn't he cute?"

"Kit, you don't have to torture him. It's his nature to make his jinchuuriki's life hell. He feeds off their pain." Kyuubi chided me.

"So did you; you grew out of it. I'm just speeding up the process," I defended my actions. "Shukaku, you better get over this fast. I need to go back to Konoha."

"I will never-"

"Aw, Shukaku-sama! You're so cute!" Pyrai shouted, running out of the shadows and dashing to the raccoon. She knelt beside him and pet his head as he fumed silently.

"Pyrai, I just told the kit. You don't need to torture him. It's not his fault that he-" Kyuubi was silenced as he noticed a long cut etched onto Pyrai's arm. It didn't look very deep, but it was bleeding nonetheless. I winced out of sympathy for the sand demon as Kyuubi let loose a wave of killing intent that would have scared Madara. "Pyrai. What exactly happened to your arm?"Kyuubi growled. Pyrai jumped slightly at her grandfather's voice and Shukaku shrank even more.

"Bad move, Shika. Very bad move," I said, shaking my head. Gaara's eyes widened as they darted between the two demons. Seeing the anxiety in his pale green eyes, I sighed and stood in front of Shukaku. "Kyuubi, as much as I'd like to beat the raccoon into the ground, I can't. Okay, I probably could, but I won't out of respect for Gaara, as you shouldn't. I'll heal Pyrai but even you can see that's not necessary; her own demonic chakra is closing the wound."

"Kit," he warned, growling. I shook my head and emanated as many calm thoughts, every had memory I had, through the bond Kyuubi and I shared. He calmed, but didn't look very happy about it.

"You're lucky this time, Shukaku. Next time I won't be as lenient."

"I'll take care of Shika. Why don't you walk around for a bit? You haven't been out in a long time," I said. Kyuubi nodded his head before giving Shukaku once last growl and stalking away. "You owe me one, Shukaku. I expect you'll behave in the future or I shall let Kyuu fulfill his promise. If you wanted to come out so badly all you needed to do was give Gaara the summoning contract. I'm sure he has enough chakra by now to summon you."

The sand demon just grunted before turning away and sit down, staring into the fire. Gaara took a step towards him before glancing at me.

"He's not completely free. One touch, a single physical contact from you and he is sucked back into your improved seal. While he's out, I should probably tell you two more about the seal," I said, sitting next to Shukaku and reaching a hand towards his back. "The seal has four effects from what Kyuubi and I have noticed. The first is that it more completely separates your consciousnesses. That way Shukaku has no direct influence on you, Gaara, but in turn you cannot force your will onto him. The second effect allows you, Gaara, to access Shukaku's chakra easier. He can still limit how much he gives to you, but what chakra he offers will be more available. The third is that, if Shukaku is released with your permission you can physically absorb his chakra and make him shrink down. That's how I forced him into this form. There are two different ways to do that, and I'll show you how to use them both. The first takes his chakra and converts most it into usable chakra, human chakra. The other method takes him chakra and expels it into the environment. I wouldn't use that, it may have side effects. The last effect that I've noticed is that it makes the demon's chakra, in your case Shukaku's, inheritable." I finished awkwardly, not really wanting to go into the details.

"Like a kekkai genkai?" Gaara asked. I nodded in turn and he put on his stoic thinking face. "How do you know?" I winced. I'd rather not have 'the talk' with a six year old Gaara, but I needed to make sure of some things.

"I've told you I'm a time traveling. In the future, I was a father," I explained, trying to be evasive. "She was two days old when I left for this time. Her name was Hana. Namikaze Hana," I said, smiling sadly. Gaara seemed to realize it was a raw topic and nodded in understanding.

"So your daughter, Hana, had Kyuubi's chakra?"

"Not exactly. Instead of drawing on Kyuu's chakra, like I did, she seemed to generate her own. Also, her chakra coils developed abnormally early, even faster than mine did after the sealing. Before you ask, from what I understand, you were born with your coils already strong. Shukaku was sealed into you before you were born, you had more time to adapt to the demonic chakra." At mention of his sealing, Gaara's bright eyes dimmed and he looked into the fire, avoiding my eyes.

"I know," he said with such bitterness it was easy to picture the Gaara I had met during my Chuunin exams. The insanity that Shukaku fed him from such a young age, finally snapping before I beat him into a pulp. I shook my head as the sand demon grinned sadistically, laughing at what his influence had done to the young redhead.

"Listen to me," I said firmly. Gaara looked up but refused to meet my gaze. "I know what you're thinking right now, Gaara. You aren't a monster, you weren't born a monster. You care about people, you value life. That's what made you try to fight Shukaku, that is why you wouldn't let yourself fall asleep. You kept your humanity alive, even at the price of never resting, never relaxing. You are not what Yashamaru said. Your mother named you for her hatred for your father, the injustice of what he did. 'The self loving carnage…' That is what your father wanted you to be, what your mother knew she would be powerless to stop. But you can stop it.

"You don't have to become what your father envisioned you to be, he was a fool to believe he could control your life. People like Danzo and the Yondaime Kazekage, people who believe that people are no more than puppets to be controlled, are the monsters. They want you to become strong through bloodshed so that you can turn and spill blood in the name of your village. I want you to become strong so that you can return to your village proud to be a jinchuuriki, proud to be your own person." I said before realizing I was trying to press the Gaara I knew into this Gaara. I was repeating everything I knew Gaara, the Godaime Kazekage and General-in-Chief of the Joint Shinobi Forces, to be. My voice caught in my throat and I coughed, completely ruining the seriousness of the situation. Gaara smiled and laughed easily. Shukaku glared at me indignantly.

"Stupid kit. Between you and Kyuubi, I knew get to have any fun."

"I wouldn't say that, Shika. Kyuu isn't too far away, he may hear you," I grinned my vulpine grin, the smile broadening as the sand raccoon shuddered visibly. "Good Shukaku."

"Kami, you're annoying."

"Kyuu thought so too," I smiled at the demon who shifted his weight so he was facing away from my. "Are you done moping yet, because this entire training thing would go a lot smoother if you gave Gaara the scroll now."

"He hasn't earned my respect yet. Until he does, he doesn't deserve it. When he becomes who you think he can be, then we'll see."

"He got that far with you whispering in his head, pushing him to insanity before I knocked both of you from your pedestal. In case Kyuu didn't tell you, I kicked your ass. When I was a genin."

"And for that you have my respect. But why is that relevant? Do you want the contract?" Shukaku chuckled.

"No thank you. One demon summons is enough for now. Maybe in a few years," I laughed back before feeling a pulse of chakra that didn't originate from our camp. "I need to leave for a while. Will you two be okay while I talk to an old friend?"

"I'll play nice," Shukaku smirked teasingly. "Just tell the cub to keep his distance and I'll be fine."

"Hey, what are you-!"

"It's okay Gaara. He's just not ready to go back yet. If you touch him, he's sucked back into your head unless you learn how to interact properly. That's something I'll teach you later. Maybe tomorrow if Shika behaves himself. Training would be easier if he and Kyuubi kept each other busy."

"I heard that, Kit. Don't you have somewhere to be? I felt the chakra from the seal."

"I was just making sure these wouldn't fight. I'll leave them to you and Pyrai, wherever she went. Don't kill Shika, Kyuu. Gaara still needs to contract and I'll be very sad if I don't get the chance to beat him up again."

"No promises, kit. Get going."

"I'll be back late tomorrow, no killing defenseless villagers and such," I said, focusing on Hinata's blood steel charm. If she had listened, I'd appear in Kakashi's apartment, next to Itachi. We'll see, I guess.

Chapter Text

"I'm not telling you not to do this, Itachi. I know that- Naruto. I see you got the Hiraishin down?" I heard Kakashi's voice move from surprise to a mix of pride and approval. I opened my eyes and saw Hinata-chan moving towards me, capturing me in a hug. I hugged her back as I locked eyes with Itachi. His dark eyes were filled with determination but always a deeper sadness.

"I suppose you're going to tell me not to do this, eh, Naruto?" He asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm. I didn't laugh, neither did he.

"No, I'm not. I wasn't lying to you when I told you that this was your decision to make. I couldn't tell you to kill you clan, neither could I ask you to wander blindly into uncharted territory. I and the others may not be happy with it, but this could be the best option."

"So why did you come here? Why tonight?"

"Because I know you. You're going to do it as soon as possible. Tomorrow night, you're going to team up with an old enemy of mine and, in exchange for Sasuke's safety, you will annihilate your family and friends. I came to talk to you what you do next. Follow me, this isn't a secure place to talk."

"Where is a secure place? This entire village is filled with spies and ROOT," Itachi said, trying to push back the bitterness that rose in his throat.

"Just follow me and don't make a noise," I replied, jumping silently out of the window before waving for the Uchiha to follow me. He narrowed his eyes slightly but slid out of the window, moving in the shadows to greet me. I held a finger to my lips and jerked my head towards my secure location. His eyes shone with questions but he nodded and we ran across the rooftops towards the Forest of Death, neither of us making a sound.


At the gates, he turned to me.

"The Forest of Death? What is so important you needed to drag me out here?"

"We aren't even there yet. Follow me," I said, jumping easily over the high fence. "Come on, Itachi. You need everything I'm going to tell you. If you don't get this information, you may as well not follow through with your plan."

"What are you-"

"No questions yet. Just trust me for now. How about that, trust the Rokudaime," I laughed. It was somewhat forced, but Itachi stared at me with defeated eyes. He jumped the fence as easily as I had.

"Lead the way, Hokage."

"Sure thing, Weasel-san," I chuckled, darting into the darkness. Itachi paused before catching up and I remembered how fast I must seem. I made a mental note to up my weights as Itachi caught up to me and studied me with slightly narrowed eyes. "I'm wearing chakra weights. Fifty-five pounds on each leg and arm with another thirty on my vest. I've been wearing these weights and increasing the weight since my fifth birthday. Kakashi guesses I'm about as fast as Gai is, but the Green Beast doesn't seem to want to spar with a seven year old," I explained, rolling my eyes. Itachi looked surprised, a rare expression on his face, before he absorbed the new information and slipped back into his emotionless façade.

"Isn't that a bit young to wear weights?"

"Excuse me, ANBU captain? You're what, thirteen? You were you're clan's prodigy, I'm from the future. We are set to different standards, both of us."

"Were?"

"Sorry, I forgot. Sasuke killed you when we were sixteen. You gave him Amaterasu."

"I had Amaterasu?" Itachi asked, the faintest trace of surprise in his tone.

"Yes. You were one of the most powerful shinobi until Sasuke came after you and even then, you had some deadly disease you caught during your time with Akatsuki. You could put someone on a genjutsu by pointing at them. It was actually really cool. Except that one time you used it on me, but I forgive you. It was a long time ago," I said honestly. Itachi looked a little downcast at news of his future behavior. "If it makes you feel better, I attacked you. You had already joined Akatsuki, as Jiraiya's spy, and you were sent to delay us from rescuing an old friend of mine."

"Who was your friend?"

"Sabaku no Gaara, Godaime Kazekage. The Akatsuki were after the bijuu and Gaara was Shukaku's jailer. Deidara and his partner, a famous puppeteer named Sasori, infiltrated Suna and brought Gaara down. From what I heard, he put up a hell of a fight, though. He even destroyed Deidara's arm. He lost eventually and they stole the Ichibi, killing him."

"I'm sorry," Itachi murmured, the sound almost absorbed by the trees we were quickly passing.

"It's fine. One of the Suna elders, Lady Chiyo, came to the rescue. She used a forbidden medical ninjutsu; it brought Gaara back at the cost of her own life. Her body was taken back to Suna and she was buried by her brother. Gaara returned to Suna and the position of Kazekage. He got married, had a son. He was there when I became Hokage, one of the first people to congratulate me on achieving my life-long dream. Later, in the Fourth Great Shinobi War, he was my General-in-Chief. If there is anything to be sorry for, it's the fact that that Gaara may never happen now. I changed his present, taking him away from Suna and trying to mend his relationship with Shukaku. All I can do is hope he directs his remaining bitterness at the right people, not all of Suna," I finished, my feet touching the ground in front of my personal training ground. Itachi had a similar reaction to Hina-chan: shock.

"What happened here?"

"Relearning the Rasengan, relearning Sage mode, summoning a very large demon fox- she wasn't very happy about that-, Rasengan again, Rasenshuriken, Hiraishin, Chidori, Rasenshuriken again, a few misplaced taijutsu moves," I said, pointing out individual craters and fallen trees. "Oh, that one is my favorite! That's from a sparring session with Kakashi. Without my medical ninjutsu, he probably would've been in the hospital for a few months. Or dead. I didn't have a scratch," I said, laughing as I pointed to the largest crater in the field. "Actually, that's a lie. I skinned my knee jumping back from a very sharp looking kunai."

"What did you do?"

"Chidori in one hand, Rasengan in the other. Demon eyes. It was fun. He barely dodged it."

"You could've killed him!"

"Probably. I just remember something he told me one the second day I knew him. He told me that, if I wanted to win that I'd need to come at him with the intent to kill. He's regretted saying that ever since, believe me." I laughed before groaning, I realized how close I'd been to saying 'believe it'.

"What?"

"Old catchphrase. It's coming back. But that's not important. You need to know what happened to you and Sasuke. I'm going to tell you everything I know of what you did after you left Konoha. If you follow it closely, the timeline should stay intact on your end and I'll be able to predict most, if not all, of what happens over here."

"You were seven when I left the last time; how much could you know about the first few years after that?"

"You were Jiraiya's spy. Some time before he died, he told me the truth about you. In that timeline, you and Danzo led everyone to believe that you killed the Uchihas as a test of your strength, leaving Sasuke alive because he wasn't even worth killing. Ero-Sennin told me why you did what you did, as well as every speck of information you sent to him, via weasel. You were very thorough, sending him updates on your whereabouts and assignments every week."

"That sounds like something I'd do," Itachi smiled tightly. "So how are you going to do this?"

"First, you are going to cast Tsukuyomi. I know you can do it, don't bother lying to me. You're smart, I'm sure the first thing you did after gaining the Mangekyou was going into the Uchiha records and learning all the jutsu."

"I checked the records, but I only know the theories! I don't know what could happen if-"

"You aren't going to get it wrong. This jutsu was almost made for you. With it, you completely controlled space and time, at least to the target. If I remember correctly, you put Kakashi in the hospital for weeks."

"I did what?"

"Don't worry about. He forgives you too. You are going to need Tsukuyomi in the future, why not practice without Madara poking his nose into your life? Scratch that, I almost forgot. He trains you for a while. Do the training but- Never mind, I'll just show you all in one go…Well? Go for it!" Itachi sighed at my enthusiasm but activated his Mangekyou Sharingan and staring into my eyes. I stared back, emotionlessly as the world was bathed in red by a scarlet moon. I glanced around myself, seeing only grey shapes.

"Is this-"

"Good job, Itachi! See, I told you. This jutsu was made for you. And, unlike some people *cough cough, Danzo and Madara cough cough* this jutsu doesn't need to be completely offensive. You could use it like I use Kage Bunshin, to cut down the time it takes to learn a new technique. Or use it to gather information without inflicting actual damage."

"Okay, I did it. Now what?"

"Now we take a walk," I joked lightly. "Never mind, that was a horrible joke. Just be careful to control the time. This might take a while; Omoide o aruku no jutsu!"

The forest, bathed in red, disappeared, replaced by my memories. In a blur, I showed Itachi every second of his life I had known him. Scenes of Itachi and Sasuke as children: sitting at the pier and laughing together, Itachi promising to help Sasuke train, Itachi poking Sasuke in the forehead before leaving to do his ANBU work. I brought out Sasuke's figure after the Uchiha Massacre, the brooding look on his stoic face; our Team Seven introductions in which Sasuke stated that he had no dreams, only an ambition and future to kill his brother as vengeance for his slaughtered family. I showed the fight in the hospital that Jiraiya was forced to stop, trying to prevent Kisame's involvement.. Itachi calling his brother worthless and weak, unfit to call himself an Uchiha.

Fighting Itachi alongside Kakashi and Sakura; Sasuke, already breaking his ties with us. My own encounter with Itachi, where he gave me some of his power. The eight-man squad's mission to find Itachi in order to lure Sasuke back home. Zetsu announcing that the duel between Sasuke and Itachi had ended, Sasuke as the victor. I showed Sasuke standing beside Madara after his battle with Danzo, yelling about the crimes Konoha had committed in sentencing Itachi to a life of banishment and treatment as if he were a criminal instead of completing his mission, assigned to him by Danzo.

The memories began to become slower, more normal. Scenes from my training venture with Ero-Sennin, learning all about Itachi's life. Later, watching Ero-Sennin jump out of Tsunade-obaachan's office window and running to meet me, saying we needed to talk. Later that night, he told me everything he knew of Itachi's life, every single report was repeated and drilled into my memory for future reference.

When the stream ended, Itachi was on his knees, gasping as he realized everything he did in my past, in his possible future. I gave him a moment of silence, knowing how hard it would be for this Uchiha Itachi to take in.

"You weren't evil," I said, cutting the silence. "Everything you did, every word you said or battle you fought in, was all to protect Sasuke. You treasured his life and safety over the village and left him in its care. If it helps, in my opinion, it was the village that abandoned you. Danzo and the others were too afraid of repercussions against the Leaf. They declared you a missing-nin so that you could help defeat Akatsuki and let Sasuke grow stronger so that he could take his revenge."

"It- It doesn't look like that worked out so well." Itachi coughed, getting to his feet shakily.

"No. Sasuke was too much like you; he treasured your life more than Konoha. When he discovered what you had done for him, he felt betrayed by the village and swore to defeat us by any means necessary. When he overused his Mangekyou, he took your eyes."

"So you want me to repeat everything that happened? Won't that give us the same result?"

"Not at all. In the other timeline, Sasuke wasn't my friend, now he is. After you leave, I'm pretty sure he'll turn to Hina-chan and I. We'll help him get stronger but give him a better reason for training. When you left that night, you told Sasuke to hate you, to want to kill you in order to get stronger. This time I'm going to knock some sense into him before he can get his mind set on that. He needs to understand that, if you have people to protect, you grow stronger than focusing on a single target. Kind of like Haku told me."

"Haku?"

"A girl I met when I was genin. In the middle of the Bloodline Purge, she escaped and was found by the Demon of the Bloody Mist, Momochi Zabuza. He took her in and trained her," I explained. Itachi nodded before staring into the trees.

"Do you see-"

"It's only Kakashi. He's been there for a while." When I was finished, Kakashi walked out of the treeline, pocketing his Icha Icha Paradise book. "That really is trash, you know."

"Hey, your master wrote it!" Kakashi said, indignant.

"Yes, my master, the self proclaimed 'super-pervert'," I said sarcastically. "Don't you remember how many time Tsunade-obaachan punched him through a wall for that?"

"Lost count around two hundred and forty. A lot of genin had missions to repair the office," Kakashi laughed, remembering.

"Anyway, I was just thinking about Haku. Do you think we could switch that up this time around? Zabuza and Haku would be good additions to the Leaf, and it's not like anyone's going to miss them."

"Good idea. I heard about Gaara, what are you going to do with him and Shukaku?"

"What I said: train him for a year then give him the option to return to Suna or come back with me to Konoha."

"Do you think the council will approve? I know the Kazekage won't be happy."

"The Kazekage doesn't have a say in this. He sent Gaara's uncle, the man who raised him, after his head. He is six years old, I couldn't leave him there."

"You are so much like your father," Kakashi said, shaking his head.

"As well as the higher ranking ninja. Need I remind you of that spar?" I said, pointing to the large crater. Kakashi winced. "I know what I'm doing, Kakashi-sensei."

"I thought I told you not to call me that, Hokage-sama. Titles are different in this time, I'm not your sensei- at least not yet. I'm going to try and get Team Seven back together."

"I didn't think holding an empty title would do anyone any good. No more Konoha, no more Hokage. Simple as that," I said before thinking about Team Seven. "If you remake Team Seven, you're going to have to push me harder. Or at least make it look like it. We need to make Sakura and Sasuke think I'm strong this early from being 'raised' by you."

"I don't think that's an option," Itachi cut in. "To be able to do a simultaneous Chidori and Rasengan is inhuman even for the son of the Yondaime."

"Hmm, what do I have sealed into my stomach that's inhuman? I wonder," I said, rolling my eyes.

"Even with the Kyuubi, Itachi has a point. At this point, Kyuubi should only be giving you chakra, not instruction. Only the council and Hiruzen knows you can talk to him. For you to know such high level jutsu…"

"I guess they can wait till the Chuunin exam…No promises on the Hiraishin though, I'm going to need it in Wave."

"Deal," Kakashi said, holding out his hand. I shook it once before turning to Itachi.

"You'll be met by Uchiha Madara. Tell him your plans, he wants revenge on the clan for something that happened decades ago."

"Uchiha Madara as in the co-founder of Konoha?"

"The very same. He wanted to be Shodaime, trying to guarantee equality for the Uchiha and the Senju. His clan thought he was power-hungry and shunned him. He's held a grudge against the Uchiha ever since. History aside, he's going to find you tomorrow night. Tell him what you're doing and he'll help you then train you, promising not to harm Sasuke. Madara knows his politics; he doesn't want to destroy the Uchiha, he wants to get rid of corruption and rebuild. If you don't do this, Madara probably will, leaving Sasuke and you alive to rebuild the clan. I'm sure he's been watching the clan for a while, judging who's worth saving and who's not."

"Did you know from the start? That if I don't do this, this Madara is going to do it anyway?" Itachi's voice was slow. I expected anger, but there wasn't a trace, only sadness.

"It was a possibility. If I know Madara, he's going to use this mission, this massacre, as a way to judge your potential. He's going to leave Sasuke alive so he can use you, working off of your care for your brother,"

"And you want me to go along with this?" He asked, his voice emotionless. It was Kakashi who answered this question.

"Both yes and no. Yes because we want you to pretend to be a tool as long as it fits the timeline. No because we have a request of sorts. We want you to get Tori out of there." Itachi paled at the sound of his girlfriend's name.

"In the other time… Did I-"

"There was only one survivor. Sasuke was more important," I said, my usual smile long gone. Itachi stared at the ground for a moment before meeting my eyes, his grey shining with determination.

"She said she liked foxes. When we were young, she was sad when they were kicked out of Konoha," he said. I stood confused for a moment before understanding his plan.

"I've got it covered. Where is her house?"

We sat in the Forest of Death, unbothered by the predatory creatures as we planned the biggest massacre ever to take place in the Village Hidden in the Leaves. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but even the Rokudaime can change so much without destroying everything.

Chapter Text

"I'm not telling you not to do this, Itachi. I know that- Naruto. I see you got the Hiraishin down?" I heard Kakashi's voice move from surprise to a mix of pride and approval. I opened my eyes and saw Hinata-chan moving towards me, capturing me in a hug. I hugged her back as I locked eyes with Itachi. His dark eyes were filled with determination but always a deeper sadness.

"I suppose you're going to tell me not to do this, eh, Naruto?" He asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm. I didn't laugh, neither did he.

"No, I'm not. I wasn't lying to you when I told you that this was your decision to make. I couldn't tell you to kill you clan, neither could I ask you to wander blindly into uncharted territory. I and the others may not be happy with it, but this could be the best option."

"So why did you come here? Why tonight?"

"Because I know you. You're going to do it as soon as possible. Tomorrow night, you're going to team up with an old enemy of mine and, in exchange for Sasuke's safety, you will annihilate your family and friends. I came to talk to you what you do next. Follow me, this isn't a secure place to talk."

"Where is a secure place? This entire village is filled with spies and ROOT," Itachi said, trying to push back the bitterness that rose in his throat.

"Just follow me and don't make a noise," I replied, jumping silently out of the window before waving for the Uchiha to follow me. He narrowed his eyes slightly but slid out of the window, moving in the shadows to greet me. I held a finger to my lips and jerked my head towards my secure location. His eyes shone with questions but he nodded and we ran across the rooftops towards the Forest of Death, neither of us making a sound.


At the gates, he turned to me.

"The Forest of Death? What is so important you needed to drag me out here?"

"We aren't even there yet. Follow me," I said, jumping easily over the high fence. "Come on, Itachi. You need everything I'm going to tell you. If you don't get this information, you may as well not follow through with your plan."

"What are you-"

"No questions yet. Just trust me for now. How about that, trust the Rokudaime," I laughed. It was somewhat forced, but Itachi stared at me with defeated eyes. He jumped the fence as easily as I had.

"Lead the way, Hokage."

"Sure thing, Weasel-san," I chuckled, darting into the darkness. Itachi paused before catching up and I remembered how fast I must seem. I made a mental note to up my weights as Itachi caught up to me and studied me with slightly narrowed eyes. "I'm wearing chakra weights. Fifty-five pounds on each leg and arm with another thirty on my vest. I've been wearing these weights and increasing the weight since my fifth birthday. Kakashi guesses I'm about as fast as Gai is, but the Green Beast doesn't seem to want to spar with a seven year old," I explained, rolling my eyes. Itachi looked surprised, a rare expression on his face, before he absorbed the new information and slipped back into his emotionless façade.

"Isn't that a bit young to wear weights?"

"Excuse me, ANBU captain? You're what, thirteen? You were you're clan's prodigy, I'm from the future. We are set to different standards, both of us."

"Were?"

"Sorry, I forgot. Sasuke killed you when we were sixteen. You gave him Amaterasu."

"I had Amaterasu?" Itachi asked, the faintest trace of surprise in his tone.

"Yes. You were one of the most powerful shinobi until Sasuke came after you and even then, you had some deadly disease you caught during your time with Akatsuki. You could put someone on a genjutsu by pointing at them. It was actually really cool. Except that one time you used it on me, but I forgive you. It was a long time ago," I said honestly. Itachi looked a little downcast at news of his future behavior. "If it makes you feel better, I attacked you. You had already joined Akatsuki, as Jiraiya's spy, and you were sent to delay us from rescuing an old friend of mine."

"Who was your friend?"

"Sabaku no Gaara, Godaime Kazekage. The Akatsuki were after the bijuu and Gaara was Shukaku's jailer. Deidara and his partner, a famous puppeteer named Sasori, infiltrated Suna and brought Gaara down. From what I heard, he put up a hell of a fight, though. He even destroyed Deidara's arm. He lost eventually and they stole the Ichibi, killing him."

"I'm sorry," Itachi murmured, the sound almost absorbed by the trees we were quickly passing.

"It's fine. One of the Suna elders, Lady Chiyo, came to the rescue. She used a forbidden medical ninjutsu; it brought Gaara back at the cost of her own life. Her body was taken back to Suna and she was buried by her brother. Gaara returned to Suna and the position of Kazekage. He got married, had a son. He was there when I became Hokage, one of the first people to congratulate me on achieving my life-long dream. Later, in the Fourth Great Shinobi War, he was my General-in-Chief. If there is anything to be sorry for, it's the fact that that Gaara may never happen now. I changed his present, taking him away from Suna and trying to mend his relationship with Shukaku. All I can do is hope he directs his remaining bitterness at the right people, not all of Suna," I finished, my feet touching the ground in front of my personal training ground. Itachi had a similar reaction to Hina-chan: shock.

"What happened here?"

"Relearning the Rasengan, relearning Sage mode, summoning a very large demon fox- she wasn't very happy about that-, Rasengan again, Rasenshuriken, Hiraishin, Chidori, Rasenshuriken again, a few misplaced taijutsu moves," I said, pointing out individual craters and fallen trees. "Oh, that one is my favorite! That's from a sparring session with Kakashi. Without my medical ninjutsu, he probably would've been in the hospital for a few months. Or dead. I didn't have a scratch," I said, laughing as I pointed to the largest crater in the field. "Actually, that's a lie. I skinned my knee jumping back from a very sharp looking kunai."

"What did you do?"

"Chidori in one hand, Rasengan in the other. Demon eyes. It was fun. He barely dodged it."

"You could've killed him!"

"Probably. I just remember something he told me one the second day I knew him. He told me that, if I wanted to win that I'd need to come at him with the intent to kill. He's regretted saying that ever since, believe me." I laughed before groaning, I realized how close I'd been to saying 'believe it'.

"What?"

"Old catchphrase. It's coming back. But that's not important. You need to know what happened to you and Sasuke. I'm going to tell you everything I know of what you did after you left Konoha. If you follow it closely, the timeline should stay intact on your end and I'll be able to predict most, if not all, of what happens over here."

"You were seven when I left the last time; how much could you know about the first few years after that?"

"You were Jiraiya's spy. Some time before he died, he told me the truth about you. In that timeline, you and Danzo led everyone to believe that you killed the Uchihas as a test of your strength, leaving Sasuke alive because he wasn't even worth killing. Ero-Sennin told me why you did what you did, as well as every speck of information you sent to him, via weasel. You were very thorough, sending him updates on your whereabouts and assignments every week."

"That sounds like something I'd do," Itachi smiled tightly. "So how are you going to do this?"

"First, you are going to cast Tsukuyomi. I know you can do it, don't bother lying to me. You're smart, I'm sure the first thing you did after gaining the Mangekyou was going into the Uchiha records and learning all the jutsu."

"I checked the records, but I only know the theories! I don't know what could happen if-"

"You aren't going to get it wrong. This jutsu was almost made for you. With it, you completely controlled space and time, at least to the target. If I remember correctly, you put Kakashi in the hospital for weeks."

"I did what?"

"Don't worry about. He forgives you too. You are going to need Tsukuyomi in the future, why not practice without Madara poking his nose into your life? Scratch that, I almost forgot. He trains you for a while. Do the training but- Never mind, I'll just show you all in one go…Well? Go for it!" Itachi sighed at my enthusiasm but activated his Mangekyou Sharingan and staring into my eyes. I stared back, emotionlessly as the world was bathed in red by a scarlet moon. I glanced around myself, seeing only grey shapes.

"Is this-"

"Good job, Itachi! See, I told you. This jutsu was made for you. And, unlike some people *cough cough, Danzo and Madara cough cough* this jutsu doesn't need to be completely offensive. You could use it like I use Kage Bunshin, to cut down the time it takes to learn a new technique. Or use it to gather information without inflicting actual damage."

"Okay, I did it. Now what?"

"Now we take a walk," I joked lightly. "Never mind, that was a horrible joke. Just be careful to control the time. This might take a while; Omoide o aruku no jutsu!"

The forest, bathed in red, disappeared, replaced by my memories. In a blur, I showed Itachi every second of his life I had known him. Scenes of Itachi and Sasuke as children: sitting at the pier and laughing together, Itachi promising to help Sasuke train, Itachi poking Sasuke in the forehead before leaving to do his ANBU work. I brought out Sasuke's figure after the Uchiha Massacre, the brooding look on his stoic face; our Team Seven introductions in which Sasuke stated that he had no dreams, only an ambition and future to kill his brother as vengeance for his slaughtered family. I showed the fight in the hospital that Jiraiya was forced to stop, trying to prevent Kisame's involvement.. Itachi calling his brother worthless and weak, unfit to call himself an Uchiha.

Fighting Itachi alongside Kakashi and Sakura; Sasuke, already breaking his ties with us. My own encounter with Itachi, where he gave me some of his power. The eight-man squad's mission to find Itachi in order to lure Sasuke back home. Zetsu announcing that the duel between Sasuke and Itachi had ended, Sasuke as the victor. I showed Sasuke standing beside Madara after his battle with Danzo, yelling about the crimes Konoha had committed in sentencing Itachi to a life of banishment and treatment as if he were a criminal instead of completing his mission, assigned to him by Danzo.

The memories began to become slower, more normal. Scenes from my training venture with Ero-Sennin, learning all about Itachi's life. Later, watching Ero-Sennin jump out of Tsunade-obaachan's office window and running to meet me, saying we needed to talk. Later that night, he told me everything he knew of Itachi's life, every single report was repeated and drilled into my memory for future reference.

When the stream ended, Itachi was on his knees, gasping as he realized everything he did in my past, in his possible future. I gave him a moment of silence, knowing how hard it would be for this Uchiha Itachi to take in.

"You weren't evil," I said, cutting the silence. "Everything you did, every word you said or battle you fought in, was all to protect Sasuke. You treasured his life and safety over the village and left him in its care. If it helps, in my opinion, it was the village that abandoned you. Danzo and the others were too afraid of repercussions against the Leaf. They declared you a missing-nin so that you could help defeat Akatsuki and let Sasuke grow stronger so that he could take his revenge."

"It- It doesn't look like that worked out so well." Itachi coughed, getting to his feet shakily.

"No. Sasuke was too much like you; he treasured your life more than Konoha. When he discovered what you had done for him, he felt betrayed by the village and swore to defeat us by any means necessary. When he overused his Mangekyou, he took your eyes."

"So you want me to repeat everything that happened? Won't that give us the same result?"

"Not at all. In the other timeline, Sasuke wasn't my friend, now he is. After you leave, I'm pretty sure he'll turn to Hina-chan and I. We'll help him get stronger but give him a better reason for training. When you left that night, you told Sasuke to hate you, to want to kill you in order to get stronger. This time I'm going to knock some sense into him before he can get his mind set on that. He needs to understand that, if you have people to protect, you grow stronger than focusing on a single target. Kind of like Haku told me."

"Haku?"

"A girl I met when I was genin. In the middle of the Bloodline Purge, she escaped and was found by the Demon of the Bloody Mist, Momochi Zabuza. He took her in and trained her," I explained. Itachi nodded before staring into the trees.

"Do you see-"

"It's only Kakashi. He's been there for a while." When I was finished, Kakashi walked out of the treeline, pocketing his Icha Icha Paradise book. "That really is trash, you know."

"Hey, your master wrote it!" Kakashi said, indignant.

"Yes, my master, the self proclaimed 'super-pervert'," I said sarcastically. "Don't you remember how many time Tsunade-obaachan punched him through a wall for that?"

"Lost count around two hundred and forty. A lot of genin had missions to repair the office," Kakashi laughed, remembering.

"Anyway, I was just thinking about Haku. Do you think we could switch that up this time around? Zabuza and Haku would be good additions to the Leaf, and it's not like anyone's going to miss them."

"Good idea. I heard about Gaara, what are you going to do with him and Shukaku?"

"What I said: train him for a year then give him the option to return to Suna or come back with me to Konoha."

"Do you think the council will approve? I know the Kazekage won't be happy."

"The Kazekage doesn't have a say in this. He sent Gaara's uncle, the man who raised him, after his head. He is six years old, I couldn't leave him there."

"You are so much like your father," Kakashi said, shaking his head.

"As well as the higher ranking ninja. Need I remind you of that spar?" I said, pointing to the large crater. Kakashi winced. "I know what I'm doing, Kakashi-sensei."

"I thought I told you not to call me that, Hokage-sama. Titles are different in this time, I'm not your sensei- at least not yet. I'm going to try and get Team Seven back together."

"I didn't think holding an empty title would do anyone any good. No more Konoha, no more Hokage. Simple as that," I said before thinking about Team Seven. "If you remake Team Seven, you're going to have to push me harder. Or at least make it look like it. We need to make Sakura and Sasuke think I'm strong this early from being 'raised' by you."

"I don't think that's an option," Itachi cut in. "To be able to do a simultaneous Chidori and Rasengan is inhuman even for the son of the Yondaime."

"Hmm, what do I have sealed into my stomach that's inhuman? I wonder," I said, rolling my eyes.

"Even with the Kyuubi, Itachi has a point. At this point, Kyuubi should only be giving you chakra, not instruction. Only the council and Hiruzen knows you can talk to him. For you to know such high level jutsu…"

"I guess they can wait till the Chuunin exam…No promises on the Hiraishin though, I'm going to need it in Wave."

"Deal," Kakashi said, holding out his hand. I shook it once before turning to Itachi.

"You'll be met by Uchiha Madara. Tell him your plans, he wants revenge on the clan for something that happened decades ago."

"Uchiha Madara as in the co-founder of Konoha?"

"The very same. He wanted to be Shodaime, trying to guarantee equality for the Uchiha and the Senju. His clan thought he was power-hungry and shunned him. He's held a grudge against the Uchiha ever since. History aside, he's going to find you tomorrow night. Tell him what you're doing and he'll help you then train you, promising not to harm Sasuke. Madara knows his politics; he doesn't want to destroy the Uchiha, he wants to get rid of corruption and rebuild. If you don't do this, Madara probably will, leaving Sasuke and you alive to rebuild the clan. I'm sure he's been watching the clan for a while, judging who's worth saving and who's not."

"Did you know from the start? That if I don't do this, this Madara is going to do it anyway?" Itachi's voice was slow. I expected anger, but there wasn't a trace, only sadness.

"It was a possibility. If I know Madara, he's going to use this mission, this massacre, as a way to judge your potential. He's going to leave Sasuke alive so he can use you, working off of your care for your brother,"

"And you want me to go along with this?" He asked, his voice emotionless. It was Kakashi who answered this question.

"Both yes and no. Yes because we want you to pretend to be a tool as long as it fits the timeline. No because we have a request of sorts. We want you to get Tori out of there." Itachi paled at the sound of his girlfriend's name.

"In the other time… Did I-"

"There was only one survivor. Sasuke was more important," I said, my usual smile long gone. Itachi stared at the ground for a moment before meeting my eyes, his grey shining with determination.

"She said she liked foxes. When we were young, she was sad when they were kicked out of Konoha," he said. I stood confused for a moment before understanding his plan.

"I've got it covered. Where is her house?"

We sat in the Forest of Death, unbothered by the predatory creatures as we planned the biggest massacre ever to take place in the Village Hidden in the Leaves. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but even the Rokudaime can change so much without destroying everything.

Chapter Text

I winced, watching what I had set loose unto an unsuspecting Konoha. After searching for Sasuke for a while in the old fashioned way, I made a not-so-empathetic decision and loosed his fan girls after him. If anyone could find a brooding Uchiha, it was Yamanaka Ino and Haruno Sakura, closely followed by twenty or thirty other admirers. Watching the dust cloud settled- the only sign of their being there, I immediately regretted freeing them.

Out of respect for my oldest enemy, rival, friend, and brother, I activated my eyes of death, wanting to practice their abilities as I searched for the embittered seven year old. Glancing quickly across the village I fell, my enhanced hearing ringing with voices. Once they had quieted some, I tried to look for Sasuke once more.

Again, the voices screamed in my ears. I winced but tried to triangulate the source. Not seeing anyone close to me, I had a crazy idea. What if…?

Across the park, I saw Ayame walking back to Ichiraku Ramen, her arms filled with bags of groceries. Concentrating, I directed my eyes to her. She paused for a second before continuing on her way, shaking her head. It had a different reaction to me, though.

I still don't understand why I'm the one that has to go get the groceries… I can make the ramen just as good as Teuchi… Then again, I'm sure Naruto-oniisan would notice the difference…

Ayame's thoughts drifted in and out of my head, her lips unmoving. I stood, shocked, as I realized just what happened: I had discovered another of shi no me side effects. I shook my head, changing my eyes to the simpler akuma no me to search for Sasuke.

When I spotted him, a piece of my heart broke. Crying into his hands, Sasuke sat in his old bedroom in the Uchiha compound.


"Sasuke?" I asked, flanked by Hina-chan. After finding the Uchiha, I let him have some time to compose himself. If there was anything I knew about Sasuke, both new and old, was that he didn't not want to appear weak. At any cost, he'd put an indifferent smirk on his face and insult anyone within three feet just to shift attention away from him so he could mourn or suffer in silence.

Instead of whipping his head towards me, Sharingan blazing as I had expected, Sasuke nodded quietly and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees as he stared at the wall in front of him.

"Sasuke?" I repeated, in uncharted territory. I paused, waiting for his reply. The silence thickened as I stood waiting, wondering what I was going to say next. I prayed for a miracle but, like so many other prayers I sent to Shinigami, Kami, and any other gods, there was no reply from them. Hina-chan stood by my side, the silence and the sense of anxiety rippling through our joint seal. I was about to repeat myself when I heard his voice, quiet but determined.

"'If all we do is kill, then we're no better than Itachi…' Let me ask you Naruto, where do you draw the line? The line separating us and Itachi; where does it fall? You've told me that you train to protect, that that's your nindo… What did Itachi train for? What drove him to become so strong, and then tear everything apart?" Sasuke said, not a trace of defeat in his voice. I paused, going over my wording.

"I- I once told you to look at Konoha. To just watch as all of Konoha worked in balance. That wasn't my idea; an old friend of mine used to lay on the grass all day, just watching the clouds go by as the world passed around him," I chuckled, remembering the many times Shikamaru was told to get moving in preparation for battle. He always called it troublesome, saying he had no time for the clouds. "When I began to listen and started watching myself, I learned that everything has a balance to it. There will always be a poor and rich status quo. That is all we as humans know, so it's all we'll ever know. There will always be one man wanting more than he deserves and another that has more than his fair share. Balance doesn't mean equality; it means peace in the midst of chaos."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Sasuke yelled. Hina-chan took a step forward and I put my arm in front of her, protecting Sasuke from her wrath. I smirked lightly towards her, thinking loudly that she needs to remember the differences between both Sasukes. She narrowed her eyes but nodded, rocking back onto her heels.

"Balance," I answered, trying not to give too much away. "The more powerful I grow, the harder you and I train, the weaker Itachi will become. If we tip the scales in our favor, we can bring him down that much easier. Kakashi is right; I probably could defeat Itachi right now. I'm not worried about losing to your brother; I'm worried about the innocent people we'll hurt and the damage we'll cause before it's finally over."

"So you're going to stand by and watch while he walks away?"

"No. I'm going to train. I'm going to fail the Academy and graduate as the dead last. That way, when we meet Itachi, he won't know what hit him," I said, trying to seem logical to Sasuke. He thought for a while before looking up, confusion in his dark eyes.

"You're going to go through with the Academy? Why? If you're so strong, why are you going through the motions?"

"Because I struck a deal with the Hokage," I smirked, thinking back on the last conversation I had with Sarutobi Hiruzen.

~Flashback~

"Ojiisan!" I shouted into the Hokage's office, interrupting a mission report. The female jounin jumped, staring out the window. Jumping down from my vantage point on the ceiling, I looked over her shoulder. "What are you looking at?" I whispered, the jounin jumping once more and whirling around, kunai in hand.

"Izoki, I'd appreciate it if you didn't gut the Yondaime's kid, no matter how much he may deserve it," Hiruzen said, chuckling wearily. "What brings you here, Naruto?"

"I need to talk to you… Alone," I hinted. Hiruzen shook his head slowly and cleared his throat.

"I'm sorry, Izoki. It seems I have something I must attend to. If there was anything, please tell me later," the Sandaime said, glancing at the jounin before turning his eyes to me. The jounin sighed before glancing in my direction, nodding respectfully at the Sandaime, and exiting the room, closing the door with a gentle thud. "So," he began, turning to me, "What is this about?"

"I want you to make me a jounin," I said. Hiruzen's eyes widened slightly before he chuckled.

"You don't beat around the bush, do you?"

"No. There's more to it though. I'm going to fail the academy, twice. Don't put in a good word for me with Iruka and let Mizuki do his own thing. I need to maintain the timeline as much as possible. That's why I gave Itachi every bit of his other life I knew; the more that is the same, the more I can change for the better."

"You don't want the promotion now? I know you're strong enough to back it up," Hiruzen said, glancing pointedly at my weights.

"I know. I have a plan, though," I grinned. As I explained my plan, as well as its reasoning, a smile grew on the Hokage's aged features.

"Are you sure that's a good idea? Even I admit that Sasuke's face would be something to see but how do you know that won't encourage him to leave?"

"Because I know this Sasuke as well as I knew the last, at least at the end. This Sasuke will be driven more easily if he understood just how powerful I am compared to him."

"What of the Chuunin Exams?"

"I can always sit on the sidelines. Maybe you could order me to patrol the Forest of Death for any suspicious activity. Gaara will always be in the inside if I need."

"If you say so; I still don't-"

"I trust Gaara with my life, Sandaime. You may be my friend and predecessor, but I shall not hesitate to defend him." To my surprise, Hiruzen only chuckled, rolling his eyes slowly.

"You are admirably loyal to your friends, Naruto. No one can deny that. I was only going to say that I don't trust him not to kill Orochimaru the moment he enters Suna."

"Gaara may be Ichibi's vessel but he does not possess his blood thirst, much to Shukaku's dismay. On top of that, Gaara knows to leave Orochimaru to the two of us."

"Changing the timeline again, I see?"

"You were up against the Shodaime and the Nidaime, on top of Orochimaru. If I keep the two former Hokage busy you won't be as distracted while you battle Hebi-teme."

"Is that it, or did you want to hang around and terrify the ANBU coming by later?" Hiruzen chuckled, shaking his head. I widened my eyes and brightened my smile, the idiot grin back on my whiskered face.

"Can I? Please?"

"Dismissed, Rokudaime-sama," Hiruzen smirked lightly, laughing under his breath.

"As you wish, Sandaime-sama," I said, mock bowing. I chuckled as an ANBU entered the room, announced by a secretary. "Are you sure I can't-"

"Dismissed, Naruto. Go bother Kakashi."

~End Flashback~

"What kind of deal?" Sasuke seemed a mix of surprise and curiosity.

"His favorite kind of deal: whatever happens, he wins," Hina-chan smirked, punching me lightly on the arm. I smiled in return.

"Either way, I'm in a position to help you get stronger, even if you hate how," I said. I was nothing if not cryptic. Sasuke looked confused but quickly hid it behind a smirk.

"So what happens now?"

"What always happens: I disappear for a few hours, you find me in the middle of training, I begin to drive you into the dirt due to my methods, and we eventually call it a day and head back to Kakashi's."

"What about Academy?"

"Always ruining my fun, aren't you Hinata-chan? I'll see you there I guess. I'm going to check on something. Sorry, Sasuke. No tagging along this time," I said, my thoughts going back to Uchiha Tori.

Sasuke huffed but turned, exiting his old bedroom. Hinata-chan looked at his back with concern but let him go.

"Hina-chan? Can you find my clone and tell him to resume his assignment? I need to tell a little bird some bad news and I'm afraid I'll be a while. I'm also going to go back to Gaara; I've been gone too long already."

Hina-chan nodded slowly before pulling me into a tight hug. She gave me a sad smile, turning on her heel and following Sasuke out of the door.


Hidden away in the noble district, the Namikaze compound stood tall, surrounded by training fields and woods. Standing near the entrance was the main house, the Namikaze Manor.

"Who's- who's there?" A startled female voice echoed in the abandoned Namikaze manor. The grounds spread out in all directions, encompassing an estate large enough to compete with the Uchiha and Hyuuga compounds. I walked further into the house- my house-, following the voice to the main bedroom. Walking into the room, I saw Tori huddled in the corner.

"It's okay, Tori-chan, it's only me," I said, my voice low. A flurry of movement and I was tackled in a hug.

"Naruto-kun! What's going on? I've been here all week. The foxes outside wouldn't let me leave; I don't know-"

"Tori-chan, you need to listen to me. There- there's been a tragedy in Konoha," I mumbled, separating myself from the young Uchiha chuunin.

"What kind of tragedy?" Tori asked her eyes wide and trusting. I felt a surge of uneasiness go through me- how was I going to tell this girl that I had stood by as her boyfriend killed her family and friends?

"The Uchiha… They're all gone- dead. You and Sasuke are the only left in Konoha," I said truthfully. Tori didn't seem to understand what I said, her eyes narrowed in confusion. "Tori-chan, I'm sorry. Everyone, your friends, your parents, they're gone. I- I was out with Sasuke, training. We came back to the Uchiha compound and found everyone dead in the streets. I couldn't- I couldn't do anything to help."

Grasping my words, Tori let me go, stumbling backwards. Her obsidian eyes widened in shock and she fell to her knees. Her mouth moved incoherently and I instinctively moved towards her, desperate to help the grieving girl. I knelt next to her, placing a hand on her shoulder before pulling her into a hug. We sat there for what felt like forever. Just when she began to calm down, she seemed to remember something.

"Itachi-kun?"

"He- he wasn't among the dead. We don't know what happened to him. He was- Danzo decided to declare him an international missing-nin. Sarutobi-ojiisan was against it but even he couldn't go against the elders and the council." Needless to say, my words did little to calm the grieving Uchiha. She sat, sobbing into my shoulder until the sun began to set.

The sun disappearing behind Hokage Mountain, she wiped her eyes before studying me. She chuckled weakly under her breath. I glanced down at myself and found my civilian outfit striped with tears.

"Sorry about your shirt…"

"It's okay. I'm not going anywhere," I chuckled in return, smiling tightly at the girl. She smiled weakly and glanced around the room.

"Where am I, exactly?" Tori glanced around the room before taking a seat on the bed. I sat beside her and she put her head on my shoulder.

"The most exact response would be in my parent's bedroom. This is the Namikaze Manor."

"Really? It's… nice," Tori said, trying to find a compliment for the old home.

"It's dead," I corrected. "I'm going to be moving back here as soon as Ojiisan lets me. Kakashi's was great when I was younger but sharing a room with Sasuke is going to get old fast."

"Sasuke lives with you?" Tori asked, surprised.

"Yeah; I couldn't let him live there. Not after… you know. We- we found his parents in the living room. I couldn't let him stay there by himself."

"He wouldn't have been by himself if the foxes surrounding the place had let me go," Tori said, rolling her eyes.

"Yeah, sorry about that; I told them to keep you safe. I should have known that they'd take that to an extreme."

"You told them? What happened to no foxes in Konoha?"

"They can't kick these foxes out. They're my summons."

"You have the fox summoning contract? You're seven!"

"Need I remind you that there have been a number of prodigies in my generation as of now? Considering whom my parents were, I'd be surprised if I wasn't this strong. My mother Uzumaki Kushina: the second Kyuubi jinchuuriki and a fuinjutsu master, even among the Uzumaki clan. My father, Namikaze Minato: Konoha's Yellow Flash, Yondaime Hokage, and the seal master behind Kyuubi's current imprisoning."

You're really enjoying this, aren't you Kit?

You know it, Kyuu.

"So, you are a self proclaimed prodigy, hold the fox summoning contract, and eventually want to move back into your family's home. Anything I missed?"

"I don't think so… What are you going to do now?"

"I don't know… I'm not sure if I can go back to the compound. I'll probably just get my own place and start back with my ninja career." I nodded and we continued talking. After a long silence I glanced over at Tori, now asleep on my shoulder. I smiled and lifted the girl from my shoulder and laying her down in a more comfortable position. She shifted in her sleep before curling up. I laid a blanket over her form before moving to the hallway.

I let out a low whistle, gathering my summons. Three mortal foxes met me.

"Good evening, Naruto-sama. Is something the matter?" Ryuu asked, glancing at the closed door behind me.

"Nothing is wrong. I'm here to tell you that there is no more need to guard Tori-chan. Thank you for being so diligent," I smiled at the foxes. Two of the foxes nodded respectfully and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Ryuu remained, a teasing light in his eyes.

"Sooooo," he exaggerated. "Does Hinata-sama know?"

"Just go back to your mate, Ryuu."

"I could say the same to you, Naru-sama," he said, smirking as he walked away. His tail swished with each step, the vibrant orange dancing in the low light. He walked to the window at the end of the hall, jumping out without a glance.

My senses spreading out, I located my Hiraishin seal. I sent a chakra pulse, a warning that I was coming through. I waited a moment than traveled my chakra through the empty space between myself and my seal.


I opened my eyes to a new camp. The grassy fields of the Konoha/Suna border were gone, replaced by rocky crags and mountains in the distance. I saw Gaara stand from a dying fire and approach me. I chuckled, watching him pocket a kunai that he had drawn.

"Staying vigilant, I see?"

"We had to," Gaara said, motioning to the two demons and kitsune. Pyrai was in her human form, shifting out of a defensive crouch as she too lowered a kunai. Kyuubi, in his human form, smirked at the exchange.

"Took you long enough," Kyuu chuckled, his voice deep and ringing. "Did you rescue the weasel's bird?"

"No need to talk in code, Kyuu. Tori should be safe. And still cooking," I said, remembering the information that I had gotten from Jiraiya in my past. Gaara's eyes narrowed in confusion and I laughed louder. "She has, um… buns in the oven."

"Don't beat around the bush. Cub, she's having kits." Gaara's confusion melted at Kyuubi's clarification.

"Oh…" he said quietly.

"Yep. We didn't find out in the last timeline until after the original Uchiha Massacre. It was too late to save her. Itachi never knew," I said sadly. Gaara's eyes widened.

"Massacre?"

"In the original timeline, my past, Uchiha Itachi murdered his entire clan- aside from his younger brother, Sasuke- all in one night. In this timeline, he killed his entire clan minus Sasuke and his girlfriend, Uchiha Tori."

"And you let him do it?"

"I did. The Uchiha Massacre was an integral point in my past. Without it, everything I know could be wrong. Aside from that, Itachi knew of what happened in the last timeline- everything he did starting the moment that Danzo ordered the kill. He knows what he's doing," I finished, sitting down in front of the fire and poking it with a stick.

"I hope so," Gaara said, reminding me of the old Gaara, standing over Matsuri holding a newborn baby with vibrant red hair, wishing for the war to be over soon for his son. Lost in my memories, I was only broken out of my trance as I saw a small hand invade my field of vision.

"What?" I said, trying to register what had been said.

"What were you remembering?"

"I can't tell you, it'll change your future and your perception of today," I said, trying not to be cryptic.

"What, did I get married or something?" Gaara laughed.

"And had a son," I said, serious. The effect was instantaneous, Gaara fell backwards, thankfully aware from the fire. Shukaku, released and the size of a mortal raccoon, grinned evilly.

"This cub might get interesting…"

"Shuka," Kyuu growled warningly. Shukaku shrugged his shoulders and jumped onto a rock and lying down comfortably.

"It's strange Shuka, you get offended each time someone calls you cute and then go and curl up on a rock, looking rather adorable if I may say so myself," I chuckled. The mighty Shukaku lifted his head and glared at me wearily.

"Shut it, kit."

Chapter Text

Blinking against the sunlight, I took off my fox mask and turned to Gaara. The year of training had passed quickly, turning Gaara into someone I was proud of.

"It's strange… One year later and it still looks the same," Gaara mused, staring at the village in the distance. Suna was exactly how we left it, if not worse for wear.

"Yeah," I agreed. Shukaku glanced at the village before turning his eyes to his summoner, Gaara. My mind turned to that moment, about six months ago, when Gaara had finally gained the raccoon's respect, single-handedly destroying a troop of Mist ninjas including one of the legendary swordsmen, all to save a young girl named Suki. After discovering that her parents had already escaped the ninja, Suki had left our small troop. Using a strange bloodline limit, she kept in contact with us, using the ability to speak to and manipulate wild animals.

"I wonder how Temari and Kankuro are doing… I haven't seen them in so long," Gaara said, smiling as he remembered his siblings' antics.

"Don't worry, I'm sure Temari and Sandstorm kept Kankuro in line. And Sandstorm wouldn't let anyone touch Temari, foxes are too loyal," I smiled in return, thinking fondly of the blond kunoichi and the make up wearing puppeteer. "Temari should be a genin by now, maybe Kankuro too. I don't know too much about your life before the Chuunin Exams."

Gaara just nodded and pulled his raccoon mask back onto his face, the scarlet rings around the eyes contrasting heavily with the green of his eyes and the white base of the mask. The black whiskers were not as defined as mine but were prominent enough to exaggerate the animalistic grin on the mask. I smirked and put my own mask back on. My mask was in the form of a fox, the ears longer and more angled than a cat's. The face did not have a white base like most ANBU masks and Gaara's mask; mine was yellow, matching my hair. The whiskers were a deep scarlet that matched Kyuu's fur. Black swirls ran behind the whiskers and faded as they went upwards toward the tips of the ears.

"Are you ready to go?"

"Yes, let's do this," Gaara said, his voice determined. I chuckled, knowing that my nindo had rubbed off onto the young redhead.

"Are we going to go for the subtle approach? Or are we bombing the village and Hiraishining into the Kazekage's office?" Pyrai, looking as young as ever, asked me, staring at the village with expectation.

"Neither. We're going to walk right in. Hopefully we'll be taken before the Kazekage. If not, I'm sure Temari can get us an appointment with the teme."

"Naruto-taicho, he's still my father."

"And a bastard," I countered. "I know you hate thinking badly about anyone, but what that man did to you-"

"Keep in mind he hasn't had the chance to do most of that in this timeline, Naruto. Remember, you more or less kidnapped me?"

"Would you rather I left you in Suna?"

"I'm not complaining, I'm just saying that you should give him the benefit of the doubt."

"He still sent Yashamaru after you."

"And Shuka killed him. Kyuubi-sama scared the hell out of my father, he won't try anything," Gaara promised. I still wasn't sold, but I nodded and began to run towards Suna, Gaara and the demons close behind.


"Kazekage-sama! There is an intruder in the village!" A Sand ANBU shouted, running into the Kazekage's office. Gaara's father jumped slightly at the entrance before regaining his calm and collected façade.

"Who is the intruder?"

"Reports say that it is the Kiiroi Kitsune and the Araiguma," the ANBU said. The Yondaime Kazekage nearly shook at the sound of the two ninjas name, one of which being an S-ranking ninja and the other an A-rank and his own son.

"Bring them to me," he ordered. I chuckled and let myself fall off the ceiling.

"No need to, teme. Dismissed, ANBU. I'm not here to kill anyone," I said, smirking behind my mask. The ANBU glared at me through his mask and took a step towards me, drawing a kunai. I yawned and put a hand on the katana I kept slung across my back. "I didn't come here to get violent, ANBU-san. However, if you push me, I will not hesitate to cut off Kazekage-teme's head and send you to your family in a body bag. I'm not a violent person, but I have less friendly companions," I said.

"Where is Gaara?" At his name, the redhead dropped into the room, flying in through the window. A shape flew in behind him, a large raccoon, about three feet tall: Shukaku.

"Hello, Father," Gaara said, taking off his mask.

"Well, Araiguma, you've been busy. What were you and the infamous Yellow Fox doing in Iwa? They weren't very happy."

"Neither was Kumo, Kiri, or Ame. I can't speak for Konoha- we haven't been there yet- but Wave was very happy to see us. As for what we were doing, that's not for you to know. All that aside, I'm a man of my word. I told you that I'd train Gaara for a year or so. One year has passed and here is your son, as promised. I trust you to not attempt anything; Gaara does know how to contact me if he ever needs me."

"You're just going to give him back?" The Yondaime Kazekage asked, incredulous.

"I knew you were stupid, but Kami! Give me a break," I complained, unwilling to explain myself. "I'm honorable, I only did what you and Suna were too stupid or busy to do: I trained him to befriend Shukaku, as I told you in the letter my furry friend delivered. I believe you remember Kyuubi?" I asked rhetorically. The Kazekage paled as Kyuu dropped off the ceiling, stretching.

"I really hate hiding that much chakra," he complained. "After a while it stings, holding all that power back so these fools won't notice."

"Kyuu, you didn't have to hide. You could have waited outside like Shuka, Gaara, and Pyrai."

"And miss the Kazekage's face when the cub flies in? No way, that was priceless," Kyuu laughed; a tail whipped towards his face and wiped a tear out of his fiery eye.

"Careful, Kyuu, we don't want to sink Suna any further," I chuckled as Kyuubi's booming laugh shook the Kazekage's office. He stopped and looked at me, disappointed.

"You're no fun, kit."

"Be a good demon and talk to Shukaku while the Kazekage and I talk business," I said, smiling behind my mask. Kyuubi grumbled but trotted over to Shukaku. "Now, back to what's happening here. I'll give you a basic overview of Gaara's abilities, at least those I think you should know about. Gaara can tell you more if he chooses too but once again, it is completely his choice.

"First, Gaara is the holder of a summoning contract. I won't tell you which one, just know that he has enough control and chakra to summon the boss. He has complete control over sand, a power that he has always possessed but is now more defined and precise. Next, he can successfully utilize Kage Bunshin. I'm sure you've heard about shadow clones, so I won't go into details. He is currently wearing over two hundred pounds in weights, and-"

"Excuse me, how old are you, Araiguma?" The Sand ANBU asked hesitantly. Gaara looked at him and gave him a dazzling smile.

"Seven and a half," he said, grinning. "Sensei, I think I can take over from here," Gaara said, looking at me. I nodded and took a step back, joining Shukaku and Kyuubi. "As Kiiroi Kitsune-sensei said, I am the holder of a summoning contract. I think it is important for you to know that I hold the summoning contract for demon and mortal raccoons, such as Shukaku over there. The seal holding Shukaku sealed within me has been improved by Kitsune-sensei and allows me to have some control over his power when Shukaku is released. I can absorb his chakra and pull him back into the seal if he misbehaves.

"I'm wearing fifty pounds on each leg and arm with an additional thirty on my vest. Without the weights, I have no doubt that I can beat any and all Suna nin in a race or battle. I can call on Shukaku's chakra at any point, creating what Sensei called a demon cloak. I can form a Rasengan, one of the Yondaime Hokage's original jutsu. Everything else you'll learn in time," Gaara finished, smirking as his father's jaw fell.

"How did you learn the Rasengan?"

"A lot of practice, water balloons, small explosions, and quite a lot of time," Gaara chuckled, looking at me.

"Gaara, I think he meant how anyone could teach you that. The Rasengan was supposed to die with Namikaze Minato," I explained, scratching Kyuubi behind the ears. "Don't worry, Kazekage. A very small number of people know Namikaze jutsu and only I know the Hiraishin."

"You- you know the-"

"Yes, I know the Hiraishin. If you look, there is a seal above your doorway," I said, shrugging. The ANBU stood and walked towards the doorway, standing on his toes as he checked the doorway. Turning so that he faced us, he gave the Kazekage a nod. "I did that the last time I was here, when you sent Yashamaru after Gaara. When you sent for Temari, I snuck in after her and placed the seal before going back to Yashamaru's place. I've had this jutsu mastered for over two years of my life."

"And how old are you, Kiiroi Kitsune?" the current Kazekage spat. I smiled behind my mask, anticipating his reaction. Kyuubi and Shukaku tensed, leaning forward.

"Well, I just celebrated my birthday," I chuckled, remembering the small party we had thrown in Kiri. "I'm eight years old."

"What?" The Kazekage laughed. He actually laughed. Kyuubi growled threateningly but I shrugged it off, forming a Rasengan/Chidori and activating my demon eyes before staring at Gaara's father.

"I may be eight years old, but I am more powerful than you can even imagine. I am the holder of the demon fox contract and a personal friend and vessel of the Kyuubi no Kitsune. I was taught by Sharingan Kakashi and can now beat him in single combat, leaving him in the hospital while I leave without a scratch. I am the only Kitsune-Sennin and my father's son. Do not try to belittle me. You will only get yourself killed."

"Sensei, I know he deserves it but can you make an effort to not kill my father? I'd rather not have to deal with a new Kazekage."

"A new-" Gaara's father began to stammer before I cut him off.

"Good point, Gaara, even though I told you not to call me sensei. Kitsune or taicho work just as well. Yondaime, I'll try not to kill you while I'm in Suna. No guarantees, but I will try. Kyuu, that goes to you too," I said. The demon narrowed his eyes but faced away from Gaara's father. "I'm serious Kyuu, one wrong move and you're sealed."

"I wasn't going to kill him, kit. The longer he stays alive, the longer I get to laugh at him."

The Kazekage looked at the nine tailed fox pointedly, trying to decipher his words. Gaara chuckled under his breath and I laughed loudly, not bothering to hide my amusement. Gaara's father glared at me openly and I added more chakra to the Rasengan making wind whip around the office. The Kazekage gulped and backed away.

"Now, Kazekage, if you are finished, I'll be saying hello to some old friends; Gaara? Are you going to come with me or try to talk some sense into your father?"

"I'll catch up; I need to make sure he understands a few things."

"Don't tell him anything I wouldn't, especially about me. I'm going to be giving that speech to Konoha first."

"Okay. Say hello to Temari and Sandstorm for me, I'll see them as soon as I'm done here." I nodded and smiled.

"Remember to stick to the plan. If I don't see you before I leave, see you in a few years."

"Same to you, sensei," Gaara said, smiling an animalistic grin.

"Taicho," I corrected. Gaara smiled and nodded, chuckling quietly. "Ja ne," I said, pulling a Kakashi: I eased out of the window, waving goodbye to the jinchuuriki, the Yondaime Kazekage, and a very startled ANBU.


"Sabaku no Temari… You're still short," I smiled, leaning in the doorway of Temari's Academy classroom. The Chuunin instructor stared at me, apparently angry at having his class interrupted. He looked over my now unmasked face and frowned, not recognizing me.

"Naruto-kun!" Temari shouted, surprised. Her smile fell into a concerned frown. "Why are you here? Is Gaara-"

"He's fine, he's okay. I just thought that I should stop by before I go back to my village. I'm from Konoha," I explained to the chuunin. He frowned and reached for his belt, probably for a kunai or shuriken. "Calm down, chuunin-san, I'm only here to say hello. I've already seen the Kazekage, he knows I'm on my way out."

"Who let you leave Konoha? You can't even be a genin yet," the chuunin exclaimed, confused.

"Nobody really let me leave, per say. As for my rank, I'm not technically a genin yet. I am, however, an S-ranking ninja in the Bingo Book if that changes your opinion of me. You may know me as the Kiiroi Kitsune or the Kitsune-Sennin."

"The Kiiroi Kitsune is a kid? I highly doubt that," the chuunin said, rolling his eyes.

"I'd challenge you to a spar but I don't think the either of our Kage would be very happy if I hurt you," I said, making the children in the classroom laugh and the chuunin redden with anger. "Anyway, can I have a few minutes to talk to Temari-chan?"

Without waiting for an answer, I walked into the room, grabbed Temari's wrist, and pulled her out of the classroom, laughing.


"So what is this all about, Naruto?" Temari asked, still laughing at the image of her teacher's face as she was pulled out of the class.

"It's about Sandstorm; I need to talk to her about something important."

"What about? The fact that she can turn into a human or the fact that she didn't seem to know about that ability until she transformed during training?"

"She already turned? I'm so sorry, I meant to come back before that happened. When did it happen?"

"Last week. Let's just say that Kankuro was very surprised," Temari said, chuckling. I smiled, imagining the puppeteer's face as he watched Sandstorm turn into a beautiful teenage-looking girl. "Do you want to see her? She should be somewhere in the village; she doesn't usually come to class with me, she says that everything they teach at the Academy is a waste of time."

"It is. I think I'll summon her; it's faster than searching on foot, even with my demon eyes activated."

"Demon eyes?"

"New bloodline I… inherited, I guess, from Kyuubi. Anyway, Kuchiyose no Jutsu: Sandstorm!" I said, slamming my palm to the sandy street. A puff of smoke rose and parted, revealing Sandstorm in her fox form. Seeing me, she snarled and crouched, ready to pounce.

"Naruto," she growled. "Give me one good reason as to why I shouldn't disembowel you where you stand."

"Because that would kill Kyuu?"

"Try again," she snarled. Looking at her with admiration, I saw the honesty in her threat.

"Because I can talk to you about your parents. I wasn't lying to Temari when I said I found you alone," I said quietly. Sandstorm, with wide eyes, shifted out of her crouch and closed her eyes in concentration. When she opened them, she was human: standing at 5'6", she had tanned skin and bright green eyes not unlike Gaara's. Her blond hair was cut short, out of her face.

"Tell me," she demanded.

"I can't tell you everything now, it's not the right time. You need to be a little older before I tell you everything. You are a true kitsune, a half blood; no matter how strong you become, you will always have just one tail when you are in your fox form. I can tell you that your mother was a human named Aisa from Whirlpool Country, the same as my mother, and your father was a three tailed demon fox named Mamoru. I only knew your mother, and for a short time at that, but she was always smiling and laughing. She was one of my mother's closest friends before my mother, Uzumaki Kushina, left Whirlpool to become Kyuubi's second jinchuuriki. Your mother was away on a solo mission when Whirlpool Country was attacked and destroyed. I found your mother while I was away training Gaara, after I had entrusted you to Temari. She was in Kumo and really sick. I offered to heal her with my medical ninjutsu but she refused. She said that, as long as you were safe, she was happy."

"Is- is she-?" Sandstorm asked, sniffing.

"She died right before we left Cloud two days later. I'm sorry," I apologized to the kitsune. She seemed to mull it over for a while before she smiled tightly.

"Guess I'm like you, Naruto."

"An orphan but still kickass to anyone that gets in our way?"

"Yep," she said, laughing. "When do you go back to Konoha?"

"Right now, actually. I only came back to Suna to drop off Gaara and talk to you and Temari. I had hoped to come back before you had transformed. I've helped others through the transition; you weren't the first kitsune I had found," I explained, smiling. At mention of her brother, Temari's eyes lit up.

"Where is he?"

"I left him talking to your father. He should be back any- there you are, Gaara," I said, smiling at a building. Temari looked at me as if I was insane but stopped when a chuckle sounded from the sandy wall. Gaara deactivated his camouflage jutsu and jumped down from the wall.

"How did you know I was there?" Gaara asked, looking between myself and Temari. Recognizing his sister, he smiled and gave her a hug. She stiffened slightly before relaxing and hugging her youngest brother back. "I missed you Temari-neechan."

"It's okay, Temari. He's different. I taught him to separate his consciousness from Shukaku's and it was that closeness that drove him nearly insane. Gaara is in control over that part of him, just as I am with Kyuu. As for your question Gaara, my sense of smell is inhuman, ever since I signed the summoning contract. Your senses should begin to heighten as well, but yours' won't be as acute as mine." I chuckled as Temari pulled back and smiled at her brother.

"I missed you too, Gaara. How have you been? I haven't seen you in so long…" Temari said, watching her brother smile and laugh. "You're so different."

"Yeah, Naruto-sensei helped me with Shuka. He improved the seal our teme of a father put on me."

"He isn't that bad, Gaara-niichan. He's changed…"

"Maybe to you. The first thing he did when he saw me was think about how he could make me into a weapon. Don't try to deny it, Naruto-sensei, you must have seen it in his eyes. The only thing keeping him from saying it was the fact that you kept threatening the man. Personally, I don't think he'll ever change to me."

"Just make sure you don't kill him. That'd screw up all my hard work and planning. And don't call me sensei!" I shouted, just noticing the suffix.

"Sure thing, Naruto-taicho," Gaara said, rolling his eyes, carefree. I chuckled and brushed the sand off of my pants, ready to leave. "Are you sure you can't stay a little longer?" Gaara asked, pouting. I gave him my signature vulpine grin and shook my head.

"I have a mate to get back to. I promised her I'd only be gone as long as I was training and setting up my network. I've finished both as much as I can in a year, it's time for me to go back to Konoha." I stretched and sent a pulse of chakra to Hinata's necklace. Gaara shivered, feeling the subtle pulse; Temari didn't even notice.

"I'll stick to the plan, make sure you don't mess up on your end, Naruto-taicho."

"No problem. I'll see you at the Exams, cub." I chuckled, using Shukaku's nickname for Gaara. His eyes narrowed before he shook his head, chuckling quietly. "Bye Temari, Sandstorm. Remember what I said last time I was here," I said, nodding to the two before following my pulse to Hina-chan.

Chapter Text

Academy is probably the most boring thing that I could've been doing with my time. What's worse was the fact that I had to fail not once but twice, repeating the same year over and over. When it came time for the third Genin Exam, with the Rookie Nine, I prepared myself to create the lamest clone ever.

I got into my pose, my idiot mask lit with determination. My hands formed the seal and I yelled, 'Bunshin no jutsu!" to Mizuki and Iruka-sensei. The smoke cleared and my clone, pale and unmoving, made an appearance. Iruka twitched and announce that I'd failed.

"Iruka-sensei. His physical coordination and stamina are excellent. And he managed to come up with something. Isn't that enough to let him pass?" Mizuki, the traitor, said, smiling.

"Mizuki-sensei… All the others created three or more usable clones. Naruto just created one, and it's practically useless. I can't give him a passing grade."


The rest of the day flew by; the other students, and their Hitai-ate, were met by congratulations from their parents while I sat on my old swing, looking sadly at the group. I heard Mizuki appear behind me and I forced myself to not drawn a kunai at the man.

When we sat on the roof, overlooking Konoha, I let myself answer Mizuki as I had last time. I tried to keep a straight face when Mizuki told me he had a secret, a way that I'd pass for sure. I went along with it, feigning ignorance to his plans, and stole the scroll once more. Opening it at the cabin, I created a dozen shadow clones and we got to work. I dispelled the clones just as Iruka appeared, mastering four of the jutsu, excluding the shadow clone. I put on my idiot mask and went again through the scene.

Once again, kunai flew towards us out of the trees. I let myself be pushed back by Iruka, even though I drew my own kunai to shield myself. I watched as Iruka was pinned to the cabin wall, Mizuki appearing from the shadows.

"I'm impressed you found this place," Mizuki announced to the injured chuunin.

"I see now… how it is," Iruka said, wincing slightly.

"Naruto… Give me that scroll," Mizuki said, kneeling on a tree limb. I let my face go blank with panic and confusion, my eyes darting between Mizuki and Iruka-sensei.

"Wait, wait… What's going on here?" I questioned, my voice getting louder and higher. I watched, again, as Iruka pulled a kunai from his thigh and tell me to never give him the scroll.

"It is a dangerous object that contains forbidden jutsu. It was sealed," Iruka explained, glaring at the man in the trees. "Mizuki used you to get it for himself!"

"Naruto, Iruka is only afraid of you holding that scroll," Mizuki chuckled. I let my eyes dart to Iruka, who grimaced before glaring at the man again. "I will tell you the truth…" Mizuki offered, smiling darkly.

I let him tell me the truth, let him throw the shuriken at me. I watched as Iruka jumped in front of the shuriken, as he explained what he went through as a child. When Mizuki laughed, I snapped.

Time to change the past, I decided, hearing Mizuki announce that Iruka had hated me ever since 'I' had killed his parents. This time, instead of running, I stood up and laughed at the silver haired ninja.

"That's right, Naruto, give the scroll to-"

"You are an idiot, Mizuki. I've known about the fox my entire life. You miscalculated; it's not you against me. It's you against-" my hands went into the shadow clone seal, "US!"

Mizuki panicked, faced with a thousand or so clones. Like last time, my clones proceeded to beat him into the ground. The real me smiled and walked over to Iruka-sensei.

"Here, let me help you," I said to the chuunin. He smiled and shook his head in disbelief. "What, you thought I fell for that? I may not be the dead-last, but I'm not stupid," I chuckled, my hands lighting up with green energy. Iruka looked a little shocked but I waved him off, pressing my hands to his thigh and then his back. When I was finished, my clones dispelled themselves and Mizuki was on the ground, twitching, unconscious, and bleeding heavily. "I guess I went a little overboard…" I chuckled.

"When did- how-" Iruka asked, incoherent. He shook his head and told me to close my eyes. I did, smiling mentally. After a while, I pretended to be impatient.

"Iruka-sensei… How much longer?"

"Okay, you can open your eyes now," Iruka announced. I opened my eyes and saw Iruka standing in front of me, his Hitai-ate now tied to my head. "Congratulations on your graduation."

I grinned and tackled him into a hug, slamming him into a tree.

"Oh… Sorry, about that," I grinned, scratching the back of my head. "Good thing I healed you before…" Iruka chuckled, shaking his head.

"I think I owe you some ramen," he said, smiling.

"Yeah! Ramen!" I shouted, sending an echo around us.


Early the Next Morning ~ Hokage's Office

Waiting outside the Hokage's office for my cue, I was in the perfect spot to hear everything said between Hiruzen and the gathered jounin that were waiting for their team assignments. I activated demon eyes and stared at the wall in concentration before it appeared to melt away, showing me the gathered ninja. The Sandaime was joined by Kakashi, Gai, Kurenai, Asuma, and a number of other jounin I had spotted around the village. Two ANBU stood silently in the corner.

"Before I assign definite teams, I need ninjas to test a potential jounin. Any volunteers?" The Sandaime asked. Quietly, Kakashi raised his hand, earning many raised eyebrows. Seeing his 'eternal rival' take the challenge, Maito Gai nearly tackled the Sandaime, agreeing in his own… special way. I'm sure that if Lee were next to me, he would have-

I shook the image from my mind, the familiar question rising in my mind: How did they make the sunset appear behind them? Not finding an answer, I saw Kurenai nod determinedly and Asuma sigh before shrugging.

"I'm in," he said, already sounding bored. I saw Gai rock on his heels, asking whose 'flames of youth were burning'. The Sandaime nodded at the door, probably knowing I could see him. I chuckled and opened the door.

The effect was instantaneous: Kakashi did his strange eye smile, Kurenai studied me, Asuma shrugged, and Gai ran up to me.

"Yosh! Naruto! Are you my challenger? Prepare to feel the intensity of my-"

"Not now, Gai-san," I said, walking to Kakashi and Sandaime.

"No! You have taken on Kakashi's hip attitude! You will be a perfect rival for Lee!" Gai said, crying anime tears before calming down and smiling, giving me a thumbs up. Kakashi and I cringed in unison.

"So I'm fighting Kakashi, Kurenai, Asuma, and Gai? Anyone else?" I asked the Hokage. He shook his head and I nodded. "This'll be easy. Where are we doing this? Forest of Death?"

"Training Ground Seven," Hiruzen chuckled at my confidence. The other ninjas looked a little more scandalized. I saw Kurenai and a few of the other jounin clench their fists and Gai's eyes lit with fire. Asuma only pulled out a cigarette. Kakashi rolled his eyes and I smirked, chuckling.

"Can we do this quickly? Sasuke's probably wondering where I went," I said, glancing at Kakashi who shrugged. The Sandaime nodded, dismissing us. "Great. Everyone meet me at the training ground and don't take too long. I want to get this over with as soon as possible."

I Shunshined out of the office, reappearing at Training Ground Seven. I was barely finished stretching when everyone else appeared. Gai and Kurenai looked ready to attack already, Kakashi was wary, and Asuma looked bored. I chuckled, remembering how similar he and Shikamaru were. The Sandaime appeared minutes later, ready to witness.

"First, I need to establish a rule," I said. The other jounin, minus Kakashi, narrowed their eyes but I ignored them. "I'm only going to aim to knock you guys out. If I mess up and seriously injure someone, I need everyone else to back off while I take over," I said, raising my hand as I forced it to glow with green energy. "You can back out at anytime during the fight and I will not use Kyuubi. Gai, I don't recommend going too far with the gates, I'd rather not get you killed for a battle. Also, I think you should come at me going for the kill. If you don't, I doubt you'll be able to touch me," I said; Gai grinned in enthusiasm, Kurenai and Asuma scoffed, and Kakashi nodded his head.

"He's not kidding," he commented. The other ninjas' heads whipped to the masked ninja and he shrugged. "Naruto is stronger and faster than I am. I'm not sure what he's up to now, but he's wearing over three hundred pounds in weights. If he hadn't learned medical ninjutsu, I'd probably be dead. The kid packs a punch that'll put Tsunade to shame."

I chuckled at the truth in the statement and got into my taijutsu stance, getting ready for my personal style, the warau akuma. I smirked as Gai shifted into his pose and Kurenai prepared to cast a genjutsu.

"And begin," I said, waiting for the battle to begin.


Dodge. Punch. Duck. Spin. Jump. Kick.

Gai and I were in a fast taijutsu battle, my akuma no me already activated to ward off Kurenai's genjutsu. I was getting a little tired but fighting four high ranking jounin at once can do that to any eight year old. Asuma and Kakashi were fighting mid to long range, trying out as many jutsu as they could fire off, even if they were weakening steadily.

I chuckled easily as Gai and I separated, the spandex clad jounin panting heavily.

"Chidori!" I heard a shout to my right and I dodged easily, throwing my leg out in a spin and trip Sharingan Kakashi.

"Katon: Haisekisho!" Asuma shouted, his hands flying through the seals. I was surrounded in a thick grey smoke. I sucked in a deep breath and prepared for my next jutsu, one I had learned from Temari.

"Fuuton: Tatsu no Oshigoto!" I shouted. A tornado rose around me, dispelling the combustible ash. Asuma flew to the other side of the training ground, hitting the ground hard. I winced but watched as he picked himself and crouched, studying me. The swirling air pushed Gai away from me, knocking him to his knees. "You're going to have to do better than that."

"Konoha Senpuu!" Gai shouted, closing the distance between us. I chuckled and activated the Hiraishin I had put on Kakashi earlier that morning. Appearing next to the silver-haired jounin, he smiled.

"I see you got the Hiraishin down. Good job, Naruto," he said, panting as he watched Gai sail through the air without a target. I raised a hand and chopped the back of his neck. He crumpled to the ground and I moved to Kurenai.

"Easy way, or the hard way? Either are easy for me, I just thought I should-" I was cut off by a dozen shuriken flying towards me. I dodged them easily and saw Asuma standing off to the side, his chakra blades glowing.

"I'm not done, yet," he grumbled around his cigarette. I chuckled and put a hand on my katana, Kamisora, slung across my back. I withdrew the blade and pumped my wind natured chakra into it, the blade surrounded by blue energy. I was careful to remove all of Kyuubi's chakra from my system; I didn't want a purple blade, even if it increased the devastation.

"You have wind natured chakra, right? Me too," I said, smiling at the ninja. "I've been practicing adding my chakra to this blade for a while now. I can keep up this rate of chakra indefinitely from what I've noticed. You're running on empty. If you use your chakra blades now, you'll pass out from chakra exhaustion," I said, glancing at the shinobi's chakra coils with my red eyes.

"Dynamic Entry!" A kunai flew past my head and I ducked, sighing as I avoided the kick. Gai frowned before smiling, ranting about my 'youthful flames' again.

"That won't work on my, Gai. This dojutsu is similar to the Byakugan; I can see every one of your tenketsu and how little chakra Asuma has left from all the jutsu. I can see everything in an almost complete circle with a blind spot smaller than the Byakugan. I can also tell that Kurenai is reaching for a kunai," I said, my back to the kunoichi. She froze before smirking and throwing the blade anyway. I bent backwards, easily evading the steel, only to be met by another Konoha Senpuu, courtesy of Maito Gai. I winced, sent flying by the blow to my head and dropping Kamisora along the way. It stabbed the ground where it land, digging itself to the hilt, propelled by my chakra.

"Yosh! You may have defeated my eternal rival, but my flames are not going to be extinguished so-" I cut him off with my own dynamic entry. It was similar to his: I threw a number of shuriken to distract him then dropped him in a spinning kick. He fell for it easily. I made sure he was unconscious before moving onto Kurenai and Asuma, both posed defensively.

"What? Are you done offensively? That makes this a lot less fun. I guess it'll finish this faster," I reasoned, walking to my fallen blade. I slid Kamisora out of the ground, the metal glinting dangerously. Watching Asuma poise his chakra blades, Kurenai tried to cast another genjutsu, immediately cancelled by my eyes. I noticed this and glanced at the kunoichi apologetically. "Sorry, Kurenai-san. This dojutsu, akuma no me, cancels out almost all genjutsu. So far, the only thing it can't break is Tsukuyomi," I explained. Kurenai's red eyes narrowed and she drew a kunai.

I charged, playing my advantage in kenjutsu even if the jounin didn't know I had prowess. After a month in Iron Country, surrounded by samurai, and another few weeks in the Hidden Mist, with their Seven Swordsmen, my kenjutsu was a lot better than it was in the original timeline, even though that doesn't say much. Kenjutsu was never a priority to the Rokudaime.

I feigned an uppercut to Asuma, sending kunai to his lower body. He deflected both with his dual blades. I pretended to hit him, letting him shift so the blow was softer. He didn't notice the Hiraishin seal that I placed subtly on his shoulder.

"Missed me," Asuma laughed. I shook my head and return his laugh.

"Look down," I said, jumping away towards Kurenai. Asuma obliged, only now seeing the explosive tags I had tied onto the kunai. The ninja jumped back, trying to distance himself just as the kunai exploded. I smirked, running towards Kurenai. I feigned a kick to her shoulder, letting her deflect the blow to charge my punch. She leaned backwards, twisting to avoid my fist. Thinking fast, I spun downwards, my hand on the ground as I did a handstand and kicked Kurenai to the other side of the field. She didn't stand up, only nodded and stayed seated as she watched the rest of the battle play out. I pushed against the ground, flipping myself so that I was on my feet one more.

Seeing that he was the last opposing jounin standing, Asuma narrowed his eyes and studied my form. I didn't give him time to analyze me too closely; I focused my chakra to my fist and punched the ground. A crater rose around my fist, sending cracks through the earth as Asuma jumped away from them as large rocks flew into the air. I jumped onto the boulders, crossing them until I was close to Asuma. He narrowed his eyes as I used my distraction as a bridge. He backed away slowly, not taking his eyes off of me until he found a kunai at his throat.

"Dead," I announced. The clone in front of the ninja dispelled himself and I smirked.

"I get it," Asuma nodded as I released him. "The crater was just a distraction. You created a clone while the real you came behind me."

"Close. That was a shadow clone, he could've done you actual damage. Also, I put a Hiraishin on your shoulder after I sent the kunai downwards."

"Impressive," Kurenai said, running to meet us. She nodded, impressed, and I left the two to wake up Kakashi and Gai.

"Jounin at twelve… You're going to be something, kid," Asuma said, chuckling. His father, Hiruzen, nodded as he walked to meet them.

I placed a hand on Kakashi's chest, another on his forehead, and pressed chakra to the unconscious ninja's heart and brain, waking him up. He coughed and sat up, smirking under his mask.

"That's embarrassing. You took me out first," he complained. I laughed lightly at my sensei's childishness.

"Only because you would've been more difficult down the line. It's a shame you missed all the destruction though," I said, pointing to the crater I had made. Glancing around the training ground, I felt kind of bad. The field was really trashed. "If you want details talk to Hiruzen. I think he was recording it under that hat." Kakashi laughed at the likeliness of that and I stood, ready to wake Gai up.

I was just about to repeat my treatment when the spandex-clad ninja awoke with a start, slamming his fist into my face, sending me flying back to the trio of ninjas. Kakashi broke my fall.

"What the hell, Gai! I was only going to wake you up!" I shouted at the Green Beast. He winced as I let loose a wave of killing intent. I cracked my neck, dispelling the killing intent, and laughed at the indignation in Kakashi's eye. "Oh, sorry Kakashi. I didn't mean to… land on you," I said, getting up and offering him my hand. He took it and I pulled him up. It didn't exactly work, seeing as he was almost twice as tall as I was, but at least he didn't fall on me.

While Gai went on about how he was going to train after this defeat, I turned to Sandaime.

"So, Sandaime?" I asked, nonchalant. Hiruzen chuckled under his disbelief. I saw the hat shift, a camera lens appearing beneath the fabric before it moved back into place. I stifled a laugh.

"So? Naruto, you just defeated four of Konoha's jounin. You knocked out Kakashi of the Sharingan in less than twenty minutes," Hiruzen announced, slightly shocked.

"I told you that akuma no me can overpower the Sharingan and the Byakugan…" I mumbled, a little embarrassed by the blatant stares I was now getting from the ninjas, the only exception being Kakashi.

"You're twelve years old," Kurenai protested.

"I was jounin at thirteen. What's the difference of a year?" Kakashi said, shrugging. The other ninjas began to talk about the possible repercussions about letting me be a jounin but I eventually cleared my throat.

"Can I get a word in?" I asked. When the ninjas fell silent, I smiled. "Thanks. I think you all are under the impression that I'm an innocent kid. I was raised by Kakashi of the Sharingan. I've worn weights since my fifth birthday, by my choice. I'm the holder of a summoning contract as well as the first human to sign it. I can do a Chidori and a Rasengan at the same time, both high level jutsu. I'm a seal master, as my parents were, and have befriended the Kyuubi no Kitsune. Do you really want me on D-rank missions?"

Kakashi nodded, backing my speech. Kurenai stumbled back; Asuma's cigarette fell to the ground; Gai began preaching about the flames of my youth and how brightly they were burning. My fist clenched and I twisted around, punching Gai into the ground.

"Sorry about that. I can only take youthful flames for so long," I said, lowering my fist. Kakashi chuckled as he watched his rival try and fail to rise from the crater I had created. "Did I break anything, Gai? I can fix you up if you need," I shouted into the crater, two yards across and four feet deep. Gai mumbled something that sounded like a 'no' so I turned away from him as he went on about my hip attitude some more.

"Thanks, Naruto. I was about to do that myself," Kakashi said, glancing once more at the Green Beast. "Although I don't think the crated would've been so deep… Either way, Sandaime, I think he should be a jounin. From our spars, he's already surpassed me by far, maybe even his father. He's even perfected the Rasengan without any help," Kakashi reported. Kurenai studied me, probably wondering if it was true.

"You know that jutsu causes damage to me too, Kakashi. That's my trump card. If I use it too much, I'll lose the ability to mold chakra in my arm," I commented, a blush rising steadily in my cheeks. "Ojiisan! Do I make it or not?"

Hiruzen chuckled as I let the idiot mask make a small appearance, just for Asuma and Kurenai's sake. He sighed before nodding. "I'll get you a flak jacket."

"Cool!" I exclaimed before returning to my more serious self. "Can I stay around for the team assignments? You still need to assign them," I pointed out. Hiruzen sighed and nodded.

"Heal Gai, I think I heard his ribs crack," Kakashi chuckled. I nodded and jumped into the crater, my hands glowing. I heard the other four jounin move away, talking amongst themselves as they walked towards the Hokage Tower. I reactivated my demon eyes, ready to check if I had broken anything.

"One… Two… Okay, two cracked ribs, one broken rib, and a cracked collarbone. Ouch, sorry Gai. That must've hurt," I rambled, gently placing my hands on the damaged areas. He woke up as I finished healing his ribs, wincing slightly as I moved to his collarbone. "Sorry, I didn't mean to punch you that hard. I've always had bad chakra control; too much or too little chakra can leave an enemy conscious or kill an ally," I said as I fixed the damaged bone. When I was finished I jumped up. "Let's go; Ojiisan said he'd wait for us to give out the team assignments."

"Yosh! Why don't we race to the Tower? If I lose, I will run two hundred laps around Konoha! If I can't do that, I'll-" I drowned out the man's voice, cringing when he went into his nice guy pose, smile and all.

"You're on. Start on three. One…"

"Two…"

"Three!" We both shouted before rocketing towards the Hokage Tower. I pushed myself, not decreasing my weights. Even with over three hundred pounds on my body, I kept up with the Green Beast easily.

Skidding to a stop in front of the Tower, I admitted defeat even though I could not tell the victor, the two of us being so closely matched. Looking at me in admiration, Gai held the door open.

"Thanks," I said, walking through the door.

"How heavy are your weights?" Gai asked curiously.

"Right now, I'm up to 330. Seventy on each arm and leg with another fifty on my vest," I said, ignoring Gai's exclamations about youth as the Hokage's office came in sight. I opened the door, not knocking. "Hey, Ojiisan," I said, taking my place in a corner.

"What took you so long? Cracked ribs don't take long for you to heal," Kakashi said, sounding concerned.

"Aw, Kakashi, you're so cute when you're worried," I said with a smirk. "I know I took a while. I broke a rib and cracked his collarbone by mistake," I explained. The other jounin, who weren't at the fight, looked wary of me. "Did you tell them yet? They look a little fidgety…"

"I didn't want to tell them while you were absent," Hiruzen explained. "Everyone, Naruto was just made a jounin. He beat four elite jounin in combat, all at once."

The news was met by mixed emotions: fear, curiosity, and approval ran through the room in waves. A few protested the news, disbelieving the announcement.

"Are you going to show them the video, Ojiisan? I know you had a camera under that hat," I said, exposing the Sandaime. He chuckled but shook his head.

"They'll take you seriously soon enough. Anyway, back to the team assignments!"

Chapter Text

"Now I have all of your team assignments with me," Iruka-sensei said to the Rookie Nine. Not really belonging in the classroom, I waited outside with the other jounin as Iruka gave his speech about being a ninja. Like last time, I didn't really listen to him, only paying attention when he started announcing teams seven through ten.

"Team Seven will be a special squad. Due to the odd number of genin in this year, Team Seven will be made of two genin and two jounin. The second jounin is new, just appointed this morning, so don't feel at a disadvantage or advantage. Team Seven will be made of Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Sasuke. Team Eight will be Aburame Shino, Hyuuga Hinata, and Inuzuka Kiba. Team Nine will be-"

Once again, I stopped paying attention, not caring who was on team nine. If the Sandaime trusted me, the teams would be the same.

"Team Ten will be Nara Shikamaru, Akimichi Chouji, and Yamanaka Ino. Please wait here for your jounin sensei. Good luck," Iruka said before smiling and leaving the classroom.

"Hey, sensei," I said, catching Iruka's attention. He froze for just a moment before rushing me, tackling me in a hug. "Good morning to you, too?" I gasped, breathless. The chuunin chuckled and released me. I pretended to gag as my throat recovered.

"What's this about your promotion? I heard that you skipped chuunin!" Iruka exclaimed. I shushed him, knowing that the genin inside could hear him if he spoke loudly. I pulled him further down the hallway before nodding.

"Just took the jounin exam today. I came over here to tell you that it was me with Team Seven. I wasn't sure if they told you who's with which group," I explained, scratching the back of my head. Iruka chuckled and messed up my hair.

"But jounin? You couldn't just take the chuunin exams when they come around and be done with it?" Iruka said. I could see the sadness in his eyes, sadness that I'd be in danger, but I also saw his attempts to hide it so I did not comment.

"If I tell you who I beat, will you believe I'm ready for it?" I asked. Iruka chuckled but nodded, obviously not taking me seriously. "Okay. I was up against Hatake Kakashi, Maito Gai, Yuhi Kurenai, and Sarutobi Asuma all at once. I took Kakashi out in the first twenty minutes, Gai and Kurenai in the next ten or twenty minutes, and then Asuma in the last ten minutes."

Iruka's jaw hit the ground.

"But- but with-"

"Mizuki?" I asked. Iruka nodded, his mouth still forming incoherent sentences. "I knew that, if I showed Mizuki my real power than he'd either run away or I'd accidentally kill him. Even taijutsu was a risk; I've invented my own technique that can take down Kakashi, the warau akuma."

"The laughing demon?"

"In honor of Kyuubi's more violent tendencies," I answered. Iruka winced and I mentally slapped myself. "I'm really sorry about your parents, sensei." Iruka only shook his head.

"We aren't here to talk about the past, that was a long time ago. How about I treat you to some ramen after you and Kakashi get your team?"

"We might as well go now, Kakashi won't be here for another three or four hours," I replied. Iruka chuckled and nodded.

"Probably not… I wonder what he does before everything that takes so long; I've never seen him around the village," Iruka mused. I frowned, knowing what he did.

"He's- he's visiting an old friend," I said, closing the conversation. Iruka accepted the close and changed the subject to my new jounin status.

"It really is incredible, though. Who would've thought, twelve years old and you already outrank me!" Iruka laughed, poking my forehead. I smiled sadly, remembering all the times that Itachi had done that to Sasuke.

"Kakashi thought it. He was the first to volunteer to test me. Gai was going on and on about his youthful flames or something like that. I wasn't really paying attention," I said, laughing as Ichiraku came into sight.

"Are you going to tell Teuchi-san and Ayame-chan?" Iruka asked me, still smiling.

"I don't know," I said, scratching the back of my head nervously. "I don't want to sound conceited or anything…"

"Wow, a three syllable word from the class clown! It's a miracle!" Iruka said, laughing as we walked into the stand. Teuchi turned around, saw me, and immediately brightened.

"Hey, Iruka-san, Naruto. What can I get for you two?" Teuchi said, chuckling at the pride radiating off of Iruka.

"The usual," Iruka said, sitting down. I sat in my favorite stool, practically bouncing. Teuchi went about, making the ramen, before placing it down in front of us, looking at me expectantly.

"So what are you two celebrating?" Teuchi asked as I dug into my ramen. Iruka rolled his eyes and broke his chopsticks open.

"Naruto's promotion," he said smoothly.

"I thought I heard something about you graduating," Teuchi smiled. "Congrats." Iruka chuckled and looked at me with admiration in his eyes.

"It's a little more… impressive than genin. Why don't you tell him, Naruto?" Iruka asked, setting me up. I glared at him playfully and put down my now empty bowl of ramen.

"I, uh- I'm a jounin," I said, coughing in embarrassment at the words. Teuchi's eyes widened and he looked at me up and down, probably wondering if I started taking any new medication. Iruka chuckled and nodded at his expression and Teuchi snapped out of, pouring me another bowl of ramen.

"On the house!" He announced, sitting down and muttering 'jounin' every now and then.

Our food gone and paid for, I said goodbye to Iruka before jogging to the Memorial Stone, wondering if Kakashi was still there. Spotting him at the stone, I slowed to a walk and joined him.

"Are you ready for this? We're in different territory," I murmured. Kakashi scoffed and shrugged.

"You could have stayed a genin a little longer, no one was forcing you to go jounin already."

"I know that," I said quietly. "Ready?"

"To the Academy!" Kakashi exclaimed, hopefully sarcastically. I never was completely sure if this man was going to rip someone's head off or start singing as he skipped down the Yellow Brick Road searching for Emerald City. I laughed at the image in my head and pressed it to my seal with Hinata. I felt her mentally laugh and then turn attention back to Kurenai, talking about her likes and dislikes.

"I'll be waiting on the roof. Don't give me away, I want to see if Sasuke senses me," I shouted as he ran off. I rolled my eyes and took to the rooftops, running towards Hokage Tower.


I sat on the rooftop, bored out of my mind and hidden by a chameleon jutsu. After a while, Kakashi appeared, coming up from the classrooms below, and nodded at me. We both were silent, waiting for Sasuke and Sakura to march up the stairs. With my enhanced hearing, I could pick up Sasuke's muttered complaints and Sakura's high pitched squeals before I could see either of them.

"-said he was a new jounin… he better not be some weakling… who is this guy? Just tested this morning…" Bitter voice? Check. Aloof attitude? Check. Definitely Sasuke.

"Sasuke-kun!" After the first exclamation, I pressed my hands to my ears, wincing as my ears rang with Sakura's high voice.

"Yo," I saw Kakashi greet the two with a short wave. Sakura took a look around, her eyes passing over me.

"I thought we were going to have two jounin on our team. Where's the other one?" She asked, curious. Sasuke was much more observant, his senses ranging out and finding me.

"You have got to be kidding me," he groaned before raising his voice to Kakashi. "That dobe is a jounin? He barely made genin!"

"That dobe beat me and three other elite jounin earlier this morning. He deserves your respect even if you don't like him," Kakashi reprimanded him. Sakura glanced between the two, confusion in her eyes.

"Wait- what? Sasuke-kun, who's our other sensei?" Sakura asked, her green eyes once more examining the roof. I took pity on the young kunoichi.

"Good job, Sasuke. You've been practicing," I said, canceling out my chameleon jutsu and stretching. Sakura jumped as I melted into the environment and I chuckled at her surprise. "Hello, Sakura, Sasuke. I knew Kakashi wouldn't be here for a few hours, so I was out with Iruka, getting ramen as a reward for my promotion."

Sakura jumped, startled that anyone our age could be higher in rank than her Sasuke-kun. She overlooked trying to understand my strength, immediately choosing to glare at me.

"Glaring is not going to make me any weaker, just as it will not make you and Sasuke stronger. Instead of complaining about my position, work on improving yours," I said. My eyebrows drew themselves together and I winced. "I sound like Hiruzen… Why did I want to be a jounin?" I asked, looking at Kakashi who shrugged.

"The vest? I don't know. Anyway… Introductions! Everyone say their full name, their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and their dream," Kakashi announced cheerfully. I winced, thinking he was on his to Oz.

"You first," Sakura said, glaring at me but pointing at Kakashi. The silver haired jounin sighed but complied.

"My name is Hatake Kakashi. I like a number of things and dislike more. I have a few hobbies that don't have anything to do with you and a few dreams. Next?" he said, going through his usual act, not giving anything away. I shrugged.

"Name's Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto. I love Hinata-chan. I like ramen and sparring with my friends. I don't like people who think they're better than everyone else and people who take more than they deserve. My hobbies are beating up Kakashi,-" the ninja glared at me, "and learning new jutsu. My dream is to help rebuild my clan and I know I'm going to become the best Hokage ever, surpassing my father and living up to his legacy. Sakura?" I prompted.

"Um, my name is Haruno Sakura. My likes are…" she glanced at Sasuke and giggled before looking back at her lap. "My dislikes are loudmouth idiots who show off every chance they get,-" she glared at me, "My hobbies are…" Obviously glancing at Sasuke and giggling, I thought to myself, wondering again why I had ever had a crush on this girl. "And my dream is…" With a final glance and one last giggle, it was Sasuke's turn.

"My name is Uchiha Sasuke. I like sparring with Naruto in the Forest of Death, away from everyone else. I like my niece and nephew, even if I hate their father. I hate fan girls," he said, glaring at Sakura. "My hobbies are training and getting stronger and my dream is to rebuild my clan and protect everyone I care about," he said, his glare softening before regaining it's steel.

I glanced at Kakashi when he mentioned his family and I smiled subtly. Not only was Tori pregnant when I had saved her, she was carrying twins, a boy and a girl. She had named the boy Fugaku, after Itachi and Sasuke's father, and the girl Tera. Kakashi winked.

"Would you like to do the honors, Kakashi?" I said. Sakura fumed and I could see inner Sakura trying to escape. Sasuke scoffed and leaned against a wall.

"I think you should," he said, smiling under his mask.

"If you insist- meet us at- um, Kakashi? Training Ground Seven is a little trashed from my test. Where are we going to meet?"

"Training Ground Seven," he replied, rolling his eyes as if it were obvious. "I think that it'll work for tomorrow's exercise, don't you?"

"I guess… Well, meet at training ground seven at seven o' clock and don't eat breakfast or-"

"You'll throw up," Kakashi finished. We left simultaneously, Kakashi by Shunshin, myself by Hiraishin.

I opened my eyes to the Namikaze Manor. I had been cleaning it up ever since I returned to Konoha so that it was ready for me to move in as soon as possible. I opened the gates, now sealed shut with a blood seal, and walked up the path. Thanks to my shadow clones, the garden was a little neater but I had always planned to keep it a little chaotic, regardless of what Hina-chan said.

I walked to the front door and let myself in, the air less stale from my constant comings and goings to and from the house. I walked through the halls, seeing what else I needed to do before we started any serious missions. For D-rank I could always send a clone- I doubt that even Kakashi could sense the difference and he's known me for some twenty three years, previous timeline included of course.

The kitchen was all set up and running, waiting for groceries to be stored in it's empty refrigerator and cupboards. The bedrooms were still dusty and unclean for the most part, the only exceptions being my parents' old room, which was going to be mine, and the room directly next to it. Stopping at the door, I glanced into the room that would have been my nursery. I had cleaned it up, putting everything back in its rightful place. I wasn't lying when I promised Hina-chan a family.

Closing the door, I walked into my father's personal study. The shelves were still dusty, the jutsu and storage scrolls still lay untouched. Never having enough time to fully explore this room, I had opted against searching it in parts. If I was going to go through this office, it would be all at once.

My eyes scanned the shelves, recognizing the basic jutsu that most genin learned: the most basic fire, earth, wind, water, and lightning jutsu were all stored here. I walked around the room, finding empty storage scrolls and scrolls filled with kunai, shuriken, senbon, and other various weapons. I chuckled knowing that Tenten would use these scrolls better than I ever could. I had almost put a hand on one of the scrolls when I saw something on the wall behind the shelf.

Curious, I pulled the shelf away from the wall, careful not to let anything fall in my search. Lying on the wall was a small seal, about the size of a playing card, that I recognized as another blood seal, this one much older than the seal I had placed on the gates. Without a second thought, I bit my thumb and smeared my blood, Namikaze blood, onto the seal.

The seal changed; it grew until it stretched a foot in diameter and then stopped. I hadn't even thought about what had happened when the area around the seal pressed inwards against the wall before shifting to the left, creating a narrow doorway that opened into a dark passageway. Following the tunnel without a thought, I soon found myself in a large room.

Noticing a chandelier, I lit the candles with a weak fire jutsu. The room now illuminated, I finally saw the shelves lining the walls, much like my father's study. This room looked even more abandoned than the rest of the house, the air still and dead. I walked to the center of the room, noticing glass cases. Wiping the grime off the glass, I saw that one of the cases held a dozen of my father's Hiraishin kunai. Another held a weapons scroll holding the Namikaze sword, Mizuchi, making me grateful that I had learned kenjutsu when I had the chance. The last was small, containing a jade ring with the kanji for Namikaze inscribed in purple ink with red waves etched around the edges. I took each item out of the case before blowing out the candles and going back upstairs to study the items in better light.

Standing in my bedroom, my parents' former bedroom, I was stuck by a delayed realization. I just found the Namikaze records! I thought to myself, smiling at my inadvertent discovery. I looked closer at the ring before sliding it onto my right middle finger, the ring somehow seeming to tighten around my finger. Pushing the thought out of my mind, I turned to the Namikaze sword.

Opening the scroll, I found another seal. Releasing the seal, a katana appeared in my hand. The katana was not unlike my own blade, the length and weight matching perfectly. The Namikaze katana possessed a cloth covered ebony, a short gold and red tassel attached to the end. The blade itself was slightly curved, the tip formed into a diagonal point. Etched onto the center, running up two thirds of the blade, was a detailed drawing of a dragon swimming through water, the waves etched in gold, the dragon in red.

Holding the katana, it seemed to radiate power somehow. Without hesitation, I switched out Kamisora for Mizuchi, my family's katana.

Having already learned the Hiraishin, the kunai weren't as much as a surprise as the katana was. I picked up the kunai and threw it to the other side of the room, feeling my chakra get drawn to it as soon as it was airborne.

Glancing out the window, I decided that I need a trip to Heiki no Senmon, the weaponry store that Tenten's father ran. I put one of the kunai in my pocket and went back into the village, resealing the gates on my way out.

Chapter Text

"Hey, Ten-" I hadn't even finished my greeting when I was tackled by a young kunoichi.

"Naruto!" Tenten shouted, laughing. After Hina-chan's party we had all stayed good friends, even Neji had forgiven Tenten for the marker incident.

"Can't- breathe… need… oxygen-" I gasped. Tenten may be the Weapons Mistress but that doesn't mean she's weak. Quite the opposite if my cracking ribs were a sign.

"Oh, sorry. I haven't seen you in so long," she blushed lightly, letting me go. "What have you been up to?" I held a finger to tell her to give me a minute and she waited patiently.

"You know, beating up your sensei," I said, nonchalant. Tenten's eyes widened then narrowed.

"You beat up Gai-sensei? What did you do? What were you doing?"

"Yeah… I cracked a couple of his ribs, broke a rib, and accidentally cracked his collarbone. It's okay, I healed him up; medical ninjutsu," I explained seeing her confusion. I lifted my hands, now glowing with green energy. "I was taking the jounin exam."

"The jounin exam? I thought you couldn't even pass the Academy!" Tenten shouted, not sure if she should take me seriously.

"I was kind of pretending to be stupid. It worked, didn't it? And Sandaime got the fight on video if you want to see it; I'm sure he's going to show it to your father at some point," I chuckled at the man's antics. Tenten looked in between punching me and congratulating me so I gave her the chance to calm down.

Five minutes later, she looked up with a straight face.

"So what are you doing here?"

"I need to talk to your father. I need another three dozen of my father's kunai and I'm pretty sure your father is the one that my dad went to for his equipment."

"The Hiraishin kunai?"

"Yep," I said, pulling one out. Tenten picked up the strange kunai and tested the weight in her hand, studying the seal and the three prongs. "I learned the Hiraishin a few years ago but I only just now found the kunai."

"I'll go get my dad," Tenten said, pushing the kunai back into my hands. "Otousan!" she shouted, running further into the store. A few minutes later, she reappeared with her father in tow.

"Ah, hello Naruto. What brings you here today?"

"I need three dozen Hiraishin kunai," I said determinedly. Tenten's father nodded and motioned me towards the back. I followed and found myself in a smithy of sorts.

"I already have two dozen; your father had ordered them before the attack and I thought that you'd eventually want them. I'll have the other dozen next week if you want to come back in," he said, pulling a box off a shelf.

"Why don't you send them with Tenten to the Namikaze house? I was planning on having a party," I explained. Tenten's father's eyes brightened.

"I heard about your promotion, congrats. Jounin at twelve, that's impressive," he said, handing me the box. I opened it and saw my father's kunai glinting in the light off the embers in the forge.

"Thanks. I'm already part of a team; due to my promotion, we have a team with only two genin. Sandaime-ojiisan thought it'd be a good idea for me to start with a team since I'm so young."

"I see… May I ask who's on the team?" he said, leading the way back outside.

"Myself, Uchiha Sasuke, Haruno Sakura, and Hatake Kakashi," I answered, smiling. Once we were back in the main store, I took an empty scroll from my belt and sealed the kunai in it. "That's better," I said as Tenten watched.

"You use scrolls too?"

"Yeah, it makes everything easier to carry around. Oh, while I'm here. My mask has a crack in it, do you think you could fix it?" I asked, unsealing my fox mask. Somehow, while dropping Gaara back at Suna, a long scratch appeared slashing through two whiskers diagonally. Tenten's father took one look at the mask and staggered back a step before regaining his composure.

"Kiiroi Kitsune?" he whispered as Tenten asked him what was wrong. I mentally groaned.

"Otousan? Are you okay?" Tenten asked, concerned. The man shook himself and nodded before taking the mask and inspecting it closely.

"Hai, I'm fine. Tenten, could you go upstairs while I talk to your friend? We need to talk business," he said, examining the mask. Tenten sulked but left us. "This is really excellent work… May I ask who made this? I've never seen a Konoha citizen make or wear anything like this."

"I had this mask made by an old friend of mine in Kiri, the woman who creates their hunter-nin masks."

"Who knows?"

"That Kiiroi Kitsune is twelve?" I asked. He nodded and I began to count. "So far it's only you, Kakashi, Hina-chan, the Yondaime Kazekage-"

"What?"

"He wasn't very nice to his son. You might know his son as the Araiguma? I took him from Suna for a year to train and learn how to defend himself from his father," I explained. "There are a couple people in Wave who know who I really am: a bridge builder and his daughter. Other than that, I'm pretty sure it's a well kept secret for now."

"For now?" Tenten's father asked, still studying the mask.

"I'm going to use the mask when we go out of Konoha on missions. I think traveling with a couple of big names- Kiiroi Kitsune and Kakashi of the Sharingan- will help the team get stronger," I said. The man nodded and finished inspecting the mask.

"The crack isn't that deep, it should be an easy enough fix. Should I have Tenten bring you the mask with the kunai?"

"No, I'll come get the mask. I don't think it'd be a good idea to announce who I really am; I've made more than a few enemies out there that I'd rather not attract to Konoha."

"Okay. Did you need anything else?"

"Hmm… I think I need a new sheath for my katana. The one I have now was for my old blade, Kamisora. It doesn't quite match Mizuchi," I said, pulling out my new weapon.

"The Namikaze blade. I haven't seen this since your father almost broke it in half after he fought the Raikage. He never was an expert in kenjutsu. How's yours?"

"After a month in Iron Country and a few weeks in Kiri I've learned a thing or two," I smirked. Tenten's father only chuckled and looked closer at the blade before picking out an ebony sheath with gold flames running down its length. I paid for everything and left, thanking the man. "Don't forget to tell Tenten to come over sometime, I don't see her that much anymore," I called into the shop at the door.

Walking into the street, I looked around, trying to decide what to do now.

You could summon me, Kyuubi almost begged, bored out of his mind inside my mind. I laughed at his boredom. You are too much like me, kit; laughing at my misery. You're lucky I don't completely hate you anymore.

Love you, Kyuu.

The demon didn't respond, grumbling to himself before he cut the connection. I smiled as he left his chakra to my use. If I didn't know better, I'd think the fox was getting attached to me. I heard a growl inside my head and I smiled.


Training ground seven. I had the best memories from this place, no matter what anyone said. I might have been tied to a log, poked in the ass, and a number of other things, but I always smiled when I thought of this place.

Looking at it now, riddled with scorch marks and craters from my fight with elite jounin, I chuckled as Sakura's jaw hit the ground and Sasuke scoffed. Like always, the three of us were waiting for Kakashi. Unlike last time, I didn't show up until nine. When I walked up, Sakura tried to punch me into the ground. I smiled to myself, remembering how weak she was before training with Tsunade-obaachan.

"You're-" Sakura began to scream at me. I winced, my sensitive ears ringing.

"I'm not late, I'm smart. Kakashi is always at least two hours late. You should have known that and come later. I also ate this morning," I announced, pointing at the three logs which, by some miracle, were stilling standing. Sakura had barely begun her tirade when Kakashi appeared, flickering into existence.

"Yo, sorry I'm-"

"YOU'RE LATE!" Sakura shouted. Both Kakashi and I winced at the volume. He began to create an excuse when I moved to defend him, albeit in a roundabout manner.

"No, you were two hours early. He's the sensei, when he shows up, you're there. It doesn't matter if you just got there or had been waiting for hours. Kakashi is infamously late, a detail you should have picked up on. Also, I'd appreciate it if you'd lower your volume, my hearing is much better than yours'."

"Just because you're a jounin now doesn't mean you can-"

"It does mean he can, Sakura," Kakashi pointed out. "He's earned his place as a jounin by defeating four elite jounin, including myself, in an all out battle. Actually, we were going all out, he was barely trying. Now, it's time for you to earn your place as a genin."

"What?" she asked, sounding confused.

"The test at the Academy is only to see if you have to potential to become genin," Kakashi began.

"This test is to prove that you deserve to be a ninja. Fail this, and you're back at the Academy," I finished. Like last time, Sakura began to panic until she noticed Sasuke's aloof attitude.

"Bring it," the Uchiha challenged. I grinned evilly and Sakura took half a step back as I released some killing intent. "You know that doesn't affect me that much," Sasuke pointed out.

"No, but it does affect your teammate. Those who abandon their mission are scum, but those who abandon their teammates are worse than scum," I pressed. Kakashi looked at me with pride, smiling with his eye again.

"Stealing my motto, Naruto?" Kakashi said, chuckling. I smiled back and he shook his head. "This is going to be a little different from the other genin tests; because there are only two of you, there is a greater chance you will be sent back to the Academy. Your objective is to get a bell from either myself or Naruto," he said, holding up his bell as I raised my own for the two see before attaching it to my belt. "To be a little fairer, Naruto and I will not be working together. Whoever doesn't get a bell by noon gets sent back to the Academy," Kakashi announced, setting the alarm. Sakura looked scandalized and almost screamed before I put a hand on her mouth, ready to say my part.

"Come at us with the intent to kill. You can use anything, any jutsu you know, any weapons you possess, to attack us. If you don't get a bell, you get tied to the logs while the rest of us eat lunch," I finished, smiling evilly. Kakashi nodded.

"Start on three. One…"

"Two…" I said.

"Three!" we both shouted. I stayed where I was while Kakashi Shunshined away. I looked around at the two, both running towards the treeline. I sighed, knowing that they'd try to play defensive until they got serious. I pushed chakra to my eyes and watched with red eyes and they hid in the foliage. I saw Kakashi, just yards away, sitting in a tree and reading his orange book.

I sat down in the lotus position, ready to meditate. I sat, observing the nature chakra around me. I was careful not to absorb any, transforming into a fox in front of two fresh genin could be intimidating. I studied the flow of nature around me, noticing each time Sakura shifted her weight nervously and each time Sasuke tightened his grip on his kunai, watching me as I sat motionless. A bird flew to me, landing on my shoulder. I smiled as the bird cuddled into my neck.

Sakura moved towards Sasuke in what she might have considered a stealthy move. I chuckled as she nearly tripped on a root.

"Sasuke-kun… Sasuke-kun!" she hissed into the tree. He glanced down at her.

"What do you want?" he growled back.

"We aren't going to get a bell by ourselves. Why else would Naruto be so relaxed? He must know we don't have a chance against Kakashi-sensei," she reasoned. I smiled, watching with my senses as Kakashi stood and Shunshined next to her.

"Are you two going to do something? This is getting a little boring," he said. I opened my eyes and the robin hopped off of my shoulder, singing as it flew away.

"I agree with Kakashi. How about we make this more interesting?" I said, my hands forming the familiar cross. "Kage Bunshin no jutsu!"

The forest was instantly filled with my clones, surrounding Sakura and Sasuke. As one, we spoke.

"I'll dispel all the clones if you too start playing offensive. It's almost ten," I announced. The clones all vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving me besides Kakashi. "Are you two going to get serious? At this rate, you'll never get the bells."

The two genin jumped away and ran from us. Kakashi looked at their backs with a narrowed eye.

"Did you-"

"Put a Hiraishin on each of them? Yep. I don't think they even noticed," I smirked, feeling my chakra drawn to the seals I had placed on each genin's back. Kakashi sighed and jumped into a tree, opening his book again. "That really is garbage."

"Blame Jiraiya. He's a good writer," Kakashi defended. I rolled my eyes at the ninja.

"So are you my sensei or am I their sensei?" I asked. Kakashi closed his book and looked up, thinking.

"I think you're their sensei. You've surpassed me, there isn't anything I can really teach you."

"The only thing you taught us was water and tree walking. Everything else we learned from the Sannin," I pointed out to the Copy Nin. He shrugged and went back to his book. I went back to the field and began to clean it up a bit, making sure the ropes were ready for their next victims.


I laughed, eating my lunch as Kakashi told stories from Team Minato. Hearing about my father as a sensei, not as a Hokage, was funny. At least it was to me, the two genin tied to the logs didn't seem to think so.

"So then Rin had to deal with all the scratches that demon cat gave Obito and Minato-sensei," Kakashi laughed with me, remembering the good old days, chasing Tora around the Leaf.

"How long is that cat going to live? I hear it's still wreaking havoc."

"Who knows," Kakashi chuckled, eating his lunch without taking off the mask. I sighed, remembering the many times Team Seven tried and failed to unmask the ninja.

"I remember this test," I said, watching Sakura struggle against her ropes. "I was starving until my sensei left for a while and one of my teammates gave me some food. That was one of the nicest things he ever did for me, now that I think about it," I mused.

"What do you mean? You barely graduated, how could you've had a team?" Sasuke asked, breaking his personal silence for the first time.

"I have a life outside of you, Sasuke," I said, shrugging. "That's old news. By the way, you two passed," I announced. Sakura began to shout and Sasuke glared at his ropes. "Listen, this test wasn't about getting a bell. Kakashi and I are way out of your league. The point of this test was to judge your teamwork skills. Sakura, by going to Sasuke and creating a plan together, you passed the test. Sasuke passed when he didn't brush you off like usual.

" Aside from that, you two have to wear weights starting now," I said, pulling out a scroll that contained my extra sets of chakra weights. Right on cue, Sakura began to complain and Sasuke didn't looked fazed, reminding me that I had already started him on weights.

"He's right; weights are a good way to get stronger and faster," Kakashi said, backing me up. I flashed him a smile and went to release the two genin.

"These are chakra weights, they activate when you push chakra into them. The more chakra, the heavier they feel. Sasuke, I know you're already wearing weights from training with me so you're going to have to increase the weights. Sakura, this is your first time with weights. Don't push them too far to try to impress Sasuke, you'll only hurt yourself," I said, my hands forming chakra scalpels as I sliced the ropes.

"I can take it," Sakura insisted. Kakashi shook his head at her and looked at her sternly.

"Naruto's right; if you put too much stress on your body at once you can damage your muscles. He could probably heal you with his medical ninjutsu but I doubt he would after warning you."

"Okay," I said, standing and brushing the dirt off of my black jounin pants. "Sakura, I want you to put twenty pounds on each leg and fifteen on each arm. I'd recommend that you also get a vest or jacket that you can put weights into. Sasuke, what are you up to now?"

"25 on each arm, 30 on each leg, and another twenty on my chest."

"Good. Leave it at that for a few more days."

"And how much weight are you wearing?" Sakura asked me. I glanced at the kunoichi and stifled a laugh; she was now kneeling from the extra weight.

"I'm wearing 330 pounds of weights. 75 on each arm and leg with another thirty on my vest. I'm wearing more on my arm than you have on your entire body. Don't feel bad though, I've been wearing weights since I turned five," I said, turning towards Kakashi. He nodded and I turned back to my meditation.

I felt Sakura take a step towards me, her fist raised, and I smirked, killing the idiot mask.

"You can't touch me Sakura, even while I'm meditating. I can see the smallest pieces of chakra when I concentrate like this. I can watch and predict every move you can make. I can even-" I stopped, pressing my chakra to Sakura. She froze, her heartbeat accelerating before I released her. "freeze you were you stand."

"Naruto, don't do that. If you lose control of your chakra you might kill her," Kakashi warned. I nodded and stood slowly.

"No problem, taicho," I said, smiling at the change in name. Kakashi turned to Sakura.

"I'm not going to protect you from Naruto. He is your sensei whether you like it or not. You need to obey him, now or on any mission, or it could cost you. That goes to you too, Sasuke. You've trained with Naruto, you know he is the stronger. If you don't listen to him, you'll get yourselves killed on the first C-rank mission you get."

Sasuke scoffed but nodded and walked up to me.

"So, sensei," he exaggerated, "What are we doing now?"

"Kakashi, I think they should have the day off to get used to the weights. Sakura can learn tree walking tomorrow and we can test their chakra affinity," I planned. Kakashi nodded, already pulling his orange book out. Sakura looked eager and, as if she had forgotten about her weights, ran up to Sasuke without a second thought. He took one cold glance at her.

"No," he said before she even had a chance to ask him out. She began to try to reason with him and I found myself needing to hold my ears again. Losing patience, my hands went to seals.

"Mizu Sutairu: Yoku Idaina!" I shouted, slamming my palm on the ground. Knowing what to expect, Kakashi and Sasuke jumped back. Sakura was not so fortunate and was carried some distance from us. Sasuke nodded at me gratefully and Kakashi shook his head at my actions.

"I'll go to Hiruzen and get us started with the missions," I assigned myself. "Maybe I can avoid Tora for a while, that cat hates me even more than he hated-" I paused, about to say Sasuke as I remembered our genin days. I shrugged, leaving the sentence hanging.

"Good idea. I'm going to go-"

"Read garbage?" I chuckled. "Ero-sennin is going to get punched next time I see him," I said as I watched Sakura, dripping wet, stalk towards me and raised a fist. Just as the fist came close to my skin, I Hiraishined to the seal I had placed on her back, appearing just behind her. "You need to add chakra to your fist, just at your knuckles. It adds a lot more power to your strike," I advised. The green eyes glared at me before she turned away and ran towards Sasuke's receding back.

"Sasuke-kun! Wait for me!" she yelled, disappearing from sight as she chased him into the trees. I chuckled and turned to Kakashi, just in time to see the last of a Shunshin dissolve into nothingness. Accepting the goodbye, I closed my eyes and Hiraishined back to the Namikaze Manor. Opening my eyes, I turned away from the gates, walking instead towards the Hyuuga compound. I was about to talk to the man at the gate when I heard a familiar voice.

"Naruto, what are you doing here?" Hiashi asked, sounding surprised under the usual propriety. He narrowed his eyes ever so slightly before noticing my outfit: the standard green flak jacket over my orange and mesh shirt followed by my Sage coat. My black jounin pants were a little dusty from the training ground but no less recognizable.

"Hello, Hiashi-sama. I was wondering if I could speak to you about Hinata-chan," I stated, bowing my head slightly. Hiashi nodded and motioned me into the compound before leading me to main house.

~Two Weeks Later~

"Naruto, in position," I murmured into my headset.

"I'm ready," Sasuke said into his microphone.

"Sakura, ready."

"Kakashi, en route. Pushing target to Sasuke," the jounin said, stalking the creature, trapping it in a triangle made of myself, Sakura, and Sasuke.

"Target sighted. Rush in three… two… ONE!" I shouted, jumping from my hiding spot and tackling the ball of fur that was the Daimyo's wife's cat. The two genin ran to meet me, prying the cat off of my face and grabbing it by the scruff.

"Got him!" Sakura cheered, holding the demon away from her. I growled at it, my akuma no me activating.

"Naruto," Sasuke warned. I shook my head, letting the chakra dissipate.

"I hate this cat," I spat, holding a glowing hand to my face. Glancing at my teammates, I noticed that I had the worst of the injuries. Kakashi walked towards us from his spot, further down the street, nodding in approval.

"Good job, guys. Let's take him back to Madame Shijimi," Kakashi said, trying not to glare at the cat. I chuckled before wincing as a deep scratch on my cheek started to bleed. "You should probably heal yourself, Naruto. Some of those cuts look pretty bad."

"No kidding. Why does he hate me so much? I didn't even do anything to him!" I complained, holding a glowing hand to my face. Kakashi shrugged.

"You look like your father; sensei and Tora weren't very good friends either," Kakashi explained briefly. Whatever the reason, I steered clear of the cat until he was safely suffocated by Madame Shijimi in a painful hug.

~At the Hokage's Office~

"Good work," Sandaime said, nodding at us. "I have a few more D-rank missions if you want-"

"Hiruzen-sama, with all due respect, I think that Sasuke and Sakura are ready for a C-rank," I cut in. The Sandaime glared at me for a moment before remembering who he was talking to. After all, I was just following the timeline. His gaze softened and he glanced back down at his papers, knowing what mission I was talking about.

"I do actually have a C-rank here: protecting a bridge builder from the Land of Waves."

"We'll take it," Kakashi said. Sandaime nodded and looked towards the ANBU.

"Get Tazuna-san. He's going back to Nami," he ordered. The ANBU left, reappearing minutes later escorting an old man. Tazuna, the super bridge builder, took one glance at me and smiled.

"Naruto?" He asked. I nodded and smiled.

"It's good to see you Tazuna. How are Tsunami and Inari?" I asked, walking towards the bridge builder and shaking his hand. Tazuna's eyes flashed briefly with worry but it was soon disguised.

"They're well."

"Laying off the sake?"

"Eh, a little… So, the Kiiroi Kitsune's one of my bodyguards? I never thought I'd see the day," Tazuna chuckled, making me wince. Hiruzen leaned back in his chair as the ANBU guards moved to defend him. Sasuke and Sakura glanced around them, confused. "Did I just blow your cover?" he asked nervously. I sighed before shrugging.

"A little. I was going to tell the village when I got back. I'm wearing the mask on all out of village missions," I explained, unsealing my mask and holding it up to Hiruzen. He sighed tiredly but nodded.

"I don't want to know," he insisted. I smiled and nodded.

"Probably not." I looked to Sasuke and Sakura, ready to explain. "Instead of going to Academy like you two did, I created an advanced type of clone, a flesh clone, to go to class. I left Konoha for a year and created the alias Kiiroi Kitsune, the Yellow Fox, so that I could make a name for myself as my father did using the Yellow Flash as well as protect my identity as his son. Iwa wouldn't be very happy if the Yondaime's son strolled right in. They didn't really mind the Kiiroi Kitsune for a while. Along the way I took a student, a child who was being abused in his home village and trained him into who you might know as the Araiguma. We've been to every major ninja village as well as many minor villages and countries, taking names and training. That trip is one of the reasons I'm as strong as I am now."

"You're being very vague," Tazuna commented, messing up my hair. I grimaced, knowing that I was still the shortest. "He and the Araiguma have been making enemies left and right. I know for a fact that Iwa would like your head."

"Iwa is still weak from the Third Great Shinobi War. They don't have a force large or skilled enough to take me down yet. I think it'll take another three or four years before they really get back on their feet. Enough about my enemies, we need to get you to Kumi. Sakura and Sasuke, meet us at the village gates at nine with a few weeks' supplies."

"Hai," Sasuke and Sakura answered. Sakura was excited for her first real mission; Sasuke couldn't care less. I smiled at the familiar reactions of Team Seven before glaring at Kakashi.

"And you will be on time tomorrow. I don't care what you do, get to that gate or I will find you," I threatened. Hiruzen chuckled as Kakashi shuddered, frozen momentarily by a wave of killing intent I sent his way.

"Naruto, you are scaring you students," the old man said. I glanced at the genin, frozen and breathing shallowly.

"Sorry," I said sheepishly, scratching the back of my head once again. "It's difficult to control the direction. I still need to work on my control a little…"

Sasuke was the first to relax again, his previous encounters with my chakra showing their worth.

"You've got to quit that," he complained.

"I'm preparing you for what's out there. I've been outside of Konoha for over a year of my life and there are people who's killing intent will do more damage than mine. One of my teachers, back in Kumo, could knock most ninjas out with one pulse. It took me down until the fifth or sixth time."

"You put yourself through that much killing intent? Why?" Kakashi asked, sounding concerned. I smirked at him.

"Getting protective, Kakashi? I was training. Araiguma could take it after the second time. I don't like to be shown up."

"Your pride is going to get you killed one day, Naruto," Hiruzen said, shaking his head.

"Probably. At least I know when to stop. I might not be a Nara, but I'm not stupid. Okay, enough of my exploits. Let's save those for the road. We should get home and packed," I advised. I was about to Hiraishin out of the office when I got an idea. Taking out one of my weapons scrolls, I unsealed four of my father's kunai. "I want each of you to take a kunai before you leave," I decided. Kakashi took it without a second glance, storing it in his belt; Sasuke picked it up, testing the weight; Sakura studied the three prongs; and Tazuna chuckled, recognizing the kunai.

"Never thought I'd see one of there," he said, picking up the kunai.

"Don't make me regret it," I chuckled at the old man. Turning to Sakura and Sasuke, I went back into sensei mode. "These are Hiraishin kunai. My father used these to earn his name as the Yellow Flash. Using the Hiraishin, I can teleport almost anywhere with very little chakra loss. This is one of the few jutsu I will not teach you; my father designed this to be a Namikaze jutsu so it'll stay a clan jutsu."

"Why are you giving them to us if your not going to show us the jutsu that goes with them?" Sakura asked, twirling the kunai in her hand. Kakashi smiled sadly under the mask before explaining.

"He's being smart. His father did the same thing on my first mission as a jounin. Any time we throw these kunai or send chakra into them, Naruto feels it. That means that, if we ever get into trouble, he knows to come help us out. This trick saved mine and my teammates' lives during the Fourth Great Shinobi War."

"That's where I got the idea," I admitted. "This way, if we're ever in a tough battle, I can get to where I need to be quickly and virtually undetected. The only sign of this jutsu is the yellow flash left behind. If this works out, I'll get more permanent seals made for you two," I said to Sakura and Sasuke, thinking of Hina-chan's necklace. They nodded and stored the kunai in their belts. I smiled, nodding determinedly. "Okay, everyone meet at the gates at nine o'clock. Anyone late gets hunted down by me."

Tazuna chuckled as all the ninja, Sandaime included, shuddered.

Chapter Text

"So Araiguma and I walk up to the Raikage and just as we're about to challenge him, his brother runs up to us and starts rapping about how awesome he is! I was about to call him an oxtocpus- being the Hachibi jinchuuriki and all- but then this huge group of Kumo nin run up to us and chase us halfway up a mountain and-" I was distracted when I saw the familiar puddle, lying in wait. I sighed and looked at Kakashi through my famous, or infamous, mask, signaling for Sasuke and Sakura to get into a defensive position. "Wow, this is a very normal looking puddle. Not out of place at all in the middle of this dry spell," I said loudly. Seconds past and I grew impatient.

"Maybe there isn't-" Sakura began. I shook my head at her.

"Yo, Demon Brothers! I know you're there! This is your only warning. Get out here and fight, leave in peace, or make me come get you: your choice."

The brothers emerged as they had last time, their confidence gone. They took a look at Kakashi before looking at me, at my mask. I smirked behind my mask as their eyes grew confused then wide with badly hidden fear.

"Didn't expect to see me, did you?" I said, paralyzing them with killing intent before Shunshining behind them and knocking each out with a blow to the back of the head. "Hmm," I said, looking down as they crumpled. "That wasn't fun at all. Kakashi, can you tie them up and get Pakkun? I'm going to make sure they were alone," I said as I took off my mask, getting into the lotus position and stretching my senses.

No reinforcements… We're good to go until we see Zabuza.

"Kuchiyose no jutsu," Kakashi muttered, his hands forming seals faster than my blue eyes could see. Pakkun appeared in a puff of smoke, looking interested.

"What's up?" he asked, glancing around before laying eyes on the Demon Brothers.

"Naruto knocked out the Demon Brothers. Can you go back to Konoha and get some ANBU to take them away? We need to get to Wave," Kakashi explained. Pakkun looked at me impressed before noticing the mask in my hand.

"Hey Pakkun," I said, putting the mask back on. Pakkun stopped, gazing at me before shaking himself, accepting the new information.

"Hey kid. Is that-"

"Kiiroi Kitsune? Kitsune-sennin? The very same; nice to meet you," I said, making my voice deeper. Pakkun rolled his eyes and nodded to Kakashi.

"Leave it to me," he said, running in the direction we had come. We watched him disappear, making a small dust trail. Looking at my team, I saw that Sakura looked scared,

"Don't worry, Sakura. I don't let my teammates die," Kakashi reassured her. I nodded, smiling before I checked the ropes and nodded, signaling the team to get back into formation before we set off again.


Spotting Haku, crouched in a bush, I smiled under my mask, withdrawing a Hiraishin kunai from my belt.

"Kakashi?" The ninja glanced around and nodded. I sent the kunai flying in a wide arc towards Haku. I watched as she formed a substitution jutsu, scaring the poor white rabbit. Like last time, Sakura began to complain that I'd scared her, sending kunai into the brush while Kakashi went to investigate.

The rabbit was, once again, terrified. Sakura began to yell at me when I held a finger up.

"Sakura. This is a snow rabbit: their fur changes with the seasons so that they blend with their surroundings. Which should mean…" I glanced through the trees, searching for chakra with my now red eyes. I counted in my head, letting Zabuza notice Kakashi again. I watched as he lifted his sword, getting ready to throw. Three two one… "Everyone, duck!"

The sword spiraled through the air, slashing where my team's heads used to be. The sword stabbed the same tree and Zabuza jumped onto it quickly.

"He's-" Kakashi began, warningly. I smiled under my mask.

"Momochi Zabuza, Demon of the Bloody Mist. I thought you were still in Grass!" I said, twirling my kunai before I lowered it to my chest. Zabuza glanced at my team before going to study me. "You're looking less grey," I said, commenting on his more human skin. The ninja looked at my height before registering the mask and recognizing me. He jumped down from his sword, leaving it stuck in the tree.

"Kiiroi Kitsune," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Wave must be better than Gatou thinks if it can afford Sharingan Kakashi and the infamous Kiiroi Kitsune."

"Not really, this is my team. I went back to Konoha and took the jounin exam. Wait, what do you mean 'infamous'?"

"Kumo?" he said, chuckling under his bandages.

"I was minding my own business. The Raikage had no right to-"

"To hunt you down after you basically kidnapped the Nii girl?" He cut in. Instead of pressing my point, I sighed and looked at him.

"Do you really have to kill Tazuna? My team is on a mission to protect him," I said. "I'd really rather not have to fight you, but I will if you insist."

"Think I'm crazy? Haku might be a good medic but I doubt even she would be able to patch me up after a round with you," he said. I laughed, remembering our multiple spars ending with Zabuza unconscious. Glancing at my team, I chuckled at their expressions. Tazuna and Sakura still looked terrified, not trusting Zabuza's word that he wouldn't attack us. Sasuke was tense, ready to spring to action. Kakashi was looking at me, probably wondering about what I hadn't told him about my year long trip.

"Do I want to know?" he asked, pointing at Zabuza. I smiled, shrugging.

"Zabuza was one of my kenjutsu teachers. By the way, Momochi Zabuza, meet Hatake Kakashi. He adopted me after my parents died," I explained. Zabuza nodded at the jounin before turning back to me.

"So… This is kind of awkward…" he said. I chuckled and glanced into the trees, looking for Haku. "Haku should come out soon. She worries too much."

"You three can relax," I said, glancing back at Sakura, Sasuke, and Tazuna. The two genin were still playing defense, covering the bridge builder as best they could. "Zabuza's not going to do anything or he'll have Haku to answer to," I smirked. Right on cue, the kunoichi appeared, the Kiri hunter-nin mask still in place. She looked between Zabuza and Team Seven, confused before spotting me.

"Kitsune-kun," she greeted, smiling as she took off her mask. "Where's Araiguma-kun?"

"You don't need to call me Kiiroi Kitsune anymore, I'm using my real name again. As for Araiguma, I took him back to Suna after training. I told his father that I'd only take him out for a year or so."

"Oh," Haku said, sounding a little disappointed. I smiled, knowing the kunoichi had developed a crush on the oblivious redhead. If things don't work out with Gaara and Matsuri, I hope he turns to Haku. I put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"Don't worry, I made sure Kazekage-teme knows that Araiguma is allowed visitors. Just say my name and he'll let you in, provided you don't kill him."

"No promises," she said, chuckling. Gaara had definitely told her of his childhood until I had come.

"Teme?" Sakura asked Kakashi, wondering what the Kazekage had done that was so horrible. I looked at her, serious.

"The Yondaime Kazekage ordered a number of unsuccessful attempts at Araiguma's life. The day I arrived in Suna, when Araiguma was only six, the Kazekage ordered Araiguma's uncle, the man who raised him, to kill him. It took a long time to heal that wound. The Kazekage is no friend to me," I said, narrowing my eyes. Sakura nodded slightly and I shrugged. "Either way, that's in the past. I took him out of Suna and taught him how to protect himself and others so that it doesn't happen again."

"You can't protect all the time," Sasuke said, looking at Zabuza's sword, still in the tree. I shrugged and jumped into the tree, grabbing the sword's hilt before throwing it down to Zabuza. It landed obediently, stabbing itself into the ground inches from the Demon of the Bloody Mist's foot.

"I can try," I replied, jumping back down. "We still have a ways to go. Let's go, I haven't seen Inari or Tsunami in a long time," I said, looking down the road with red eyes. Zabuza nodded, finally understanding my excellent vision, before looking sheepish. I took pity on him: "I think you two should stick with us. Gatou won't be very happy about your… resignation. After this mission, I can pull some strings and get your status as missing-nin cleared. I still owe you one from the kenjutsu lessons."

"No, you took care of that debt when you helped me with my medical ninjutsu. Now you're just being chivalrous," Haku accused. I smiled, scratching the back of my head.

"What if I am? I've been chased around before, it's not a good way to live. That's one of the reasons I went back to Konoha and got a team. Stability," I pointed out to the two ninja. Zabuza nodded, and Haku stared at me with gratitude. The group, now seven people, began to walk to the bridge builder's home. Haku began to talk to Sakura about how great medical ninjutsu was and I could see the light in the pink haired kunoichi's eyes. Sasuke was talking to Kakashi about the Sharingan, a now familiar topic with those two. I glanced at Zabuza, chuckling to myself as he apologized for almost killing him.

Could my life be any stranger?

Well, you could have a demon lord sealed in your- wait, already have that, Kyuubi joked, pacing my mindscape. You could always summon me… he said, trying to be suave.

Did I just use the word suave? Kami, I'm going insane. But no, I'm not going to summon you. Sakura and Sasuke don't even know which summoning contract I hold, let alone who the boss is. I don't think they realize I can talk to you. They probably assume that you stay quiet in the back of my mind, giving me chakra whenever I need it but staying out of my life.

Well that doesn't sound very fun. You know what would be fun? Summoning me, right about… NOW! … Now this is just awkward… Kyuubi muttered, cutting the connection between our psyches. I chuckled, still hearing muffled growls and complaints inside my head.


I kept my mask on until we saw the house, wary of any stray thugs that had thought twice in the last timeline. Stepping to the front door I put a hand on my mask, ready to remove it just as a shape flew towards me, tackling me in a hug. I fell backwards, laughing as I unsuccessfully tried to pull Inari off of me.

"Naruto!" he shouted, pinning me down. I chuckled in surrender. Zabuza took one look at me and scoffed, teasingly bitter.

"Sure. Two dozen Iwa nin? Easy, piece of cake. Haku and I? Not a chance. A seven year old kid? Now you're in trouble, Kitsune," Zabuza said before he introduced himself to Tsunami. "I'm an old friend of Kitsune, Naruto. I was one of his kenjutsu masters."

"Hello," she smiled, her eyes drawn to the huge sword slung on his back. "Dinner will be on the table in a few minutes." The woman walked back into the kitchen, followed by Tazuna.

"Hey, I'm eight!" Inari shouted at the Demon of the Bloody Mist. The jounin glanced at the kid before messing up his head.

"Sure you are," he said, cracking his neck. I chuckled at my old teacher's antics.

"Just think, Zabuza. If I can beat you up, but not Inari, what does that say about you?" I countered. Inari beamed while Zabuza clenched his fist. "That's not a good idea, Zabuza. Maybe we can spar later in the forest, where we can't break anyone- I mean, thing."

"Nah, you'll just go easy on me," he shrugged, releasing his fist.

"Only because I'd rather not kill you," I retorted. I turned back to Kakashi. "Are you up for a spar? You, Zabuza, and Haku against me? It might be learning experience for Sasuke and Sakura, watching four high level ninja fight."

"Why not," Kakashi shrugged. Zabuza and Haku nodded.

"Dinner's ready!" Tsunami called from the kitchen.


Sitting at the table, washed up and ready to eat, Kakashi turned to me.

"When are you going to tell them?" He was vague, but I knew what he was talking about.

"After the spar. By the way, you might want to leave the Hiraishin kunai behind when we fight," I said as Kakashi nodded, remembering that he carried my kunai. "I'll take the seal I have on your vest too," I said, chuckling as Kakashi turned, confused, to his back.

"When did you-" he said, finally noticing the seal on the back of his flak jacket.

"Back with the Demon Brothers. I put my hand on your shoulder when you summoned Pakkun," I explained. Kakashi nodded, impressed.

"You're getting good at putting them down unnoticed," he commented. I nodded, pointing the seals on Zabuza's sword and on Haku's shoulder. "Are you going to tell them about it?"

"Nah, I'll let them find out," I winked. The rest of the meal went quickly, hurried by various stories and conversations. By the end of dinner, I was nearly growling at Zabuza; the man had a sick fascination with recounting each time I'd fallen on my ass during my training with him. I bit back a complaint, watching Inari and Haku laugh, surrounded by friends.

Chapter Text

"Kakashi, you count," I said, stretching. The forest was eerily silent, almost as if the woods knew that there was about to be some major damage inflicted to it's old trees. The birds were silent, all either gone or watching as Zabuza held his sword aloft, Haku clutching her ice senbon easily. Kakashi narrowed his eyes, Sharingan exposed, but began the countdown.

"Watch as much as you can, you two. I don't think you'll be able to pick up much, but try to focus on Naruto. On three. One… Two… Three!" The Copy Nin jumped, Shunshining into the trees. I smiled as Haku summoned her demonic ice mirrors, ready to begin her senbon assault. I disagreed, my hands forming a fire technique.

"Akuma bijutsu: Fenikkusu no ikari!" I shouted, slamming my clenched fist into the ground. A crater erupted around my hand, flames generating and gathering at the edges. One moment, the flames seemed about to die. The next, they rose in an inferno, surrounding me in a tornado of fire. The fire expanded in a circle, pushing Haku out of her ice and shattering her mirrors, evaporating the moisture in the air, preventing her mirrors, as well as Zabuza's mist, from making a second appearance.

I killed the flames, trying not to burn the forest to a crisp. The fire obey, each ember fizzling out as I cut off my chakra. Turning to Sakura and Sasuke, I gave them some advice.

"Get as far as you can without losing the view. Don't get yourselves hurt because you want to see how strong we are," I said, watching as Sakura nearly fell out of the tree. The two genin nodded and retreated further into the trees, leaving the four of us in the clearing. "Who's next?"

I was answered by Kakashi's foot, flying towards my head. Instead of dodging it, I grabbed his leg easily, stopping him midair. He sweat dropped and I smirked before tossing him, lightly, to the other side of the clearing. He did a flip and landed in a crouch, trying to trap me in a genjutsu. In response, I activated demon eyes, ducking as Kubikiri Houcho approached my head. Now in a crouch, I swung my leg out and spun, tripping the bandaged ninja.

"Haven't had to avoid that blade in a while. Speaking of blades that missed, have you seen Kisame's Samehada? Freaky," I said, dodging each of Zabuza's attacks. I stood up straight, looking at the ninja. "Are we going to do a kenjutsu duel, because I learned from the samurai after I met you. I was going to train with Kisame too, but his sword liked my chakra too much…"

"Are you going to draw Kamisora or just evade everything?" Zabuza growled, a little breathless. I smiled, remembering that I hadn't told anyone outside of Tenten's father of my new blade.

"The katana on my back is not Kamisora. I understand why you thought that, the hilts are mostly the same. The only real difference on the hilt is the tassel. The blade," I smiled, "is much more impressive."

I put a hand on the hilt, sliding the blade out in a slash of movement. The steel glinted in the sunshine, the gold and red etchings shifting in the light.

"This katana is named Mizuchi. This is a clan weapon, designed to be used only by the current head," I said, running a hand down the face of the blade. "According to my clan records, it changes it's form to match the needs of it's owner. Mizuchi matches Kamisora's length and weight, making it easier for me to wield. On top of that, I can add my wind chakra to Mizuchi, making it that much deadlier."

"So you're a clan head now? At eleven?"

"I'm twelve, and yes," I said, holding my katana aloft. "My father was the last in a long line of ninjas." I talked as I dodged and slashed, occasionally ducking away from a taijutsu move from Kakashi. After a while, Zabuza stumbled. I darted forward and paralyzed his arms with the Jyuuken I learned in the previous timeline. Zabuza dropped Kubikiri Houcho, his muscles failing.

"That's cheating," he accused. Glancing at Kakashi, he nodded. "Toss me a kunai, will you?"

Not doubting his skill, Kakashi withdrew a standard kunai and tossed it in his direction. Just to make the Mist ninja angry, I threw out a chakra thread and pulled the kunai to me, twirling it in my hand.

"Looking for this?" I said, holding the kunai before tossing it back. The ninja glared at me before catching the kunai in his mouth. I closed my eyes for half a second, Hiraishining to the sword, now abandoned behind Zabuza. I took a step towards my former teacher and struck the back of his head, knocking him out. "I think we're done. Unless you want to go taijutsu?" I asked Kakashi, who shook his head quickly.

"Now you're just showing off. You've beat Gai with that style, I'm not going to stand a chance," he said. I shrugged and focused chakra to my hands, ready to wake Zabuza up and give him his arms back.

"Zabuza was out faster than I expected. Do you think he was going easy on me? He didn't even try for a Mizu Bunshin this time," I said, kneeling over the missing-nin.

"Probably," Kakashi conceded. "You didn't need to use that technique on Haku. You just wanted to show off."

"Your point?"

"My point is that if you face someone stronger than us, you're going to waste your chakra in the first ten minutes."

"I know when it's okay to show off. Besides, I can go into Sage mode if I'm up against someone really strong," I defended. Zabuza opened his eyes and grimaced.

"I really hate that technique," he groaned, sitting up. "When did you put the seal down?"

"When I gave Kubikiri Houcho back the first time," I answered, smirking before following my Hiraishin to Haku. Healing the kunoichi, I remembered the previous timeline, in which she was the one waking me up.

"That was a good technique," she said, cracking her neck. I grimaced; Zabuza was rubbing off on her. "It broke my mirrors."

"Sorry about that, I probably should've used a weaker jutsu."

"How long have I been out?"

"Not too long. After I took Zabuza down, Kakashi and I stopped. I just finished healing Zabuza; before you ask, all I did was hit some tenketsu and paralyze his arms. No permanent damage." Haku nodded and stood. We walked side by side back to Kakashi and Zabuza, now joined by Sasuke and Sakura.

"How much of that did you actually see?" I asked the two genin. Expecting Sakura to answer, I was surprised when Sasuke replied first.

"Not too much, only when you were talking. What was that fire technique that you used against Haku? I didn't recognize it," Sasuke said, looking at me with an expression I couldn't place, a mix between curiosity and excitement; two emotions rarely, if ever, seen on the Uchiha's face.

"I'd be surprised if you had recognized it. It's a demonic technique called Phoenix's Rage. It's one of the jutsu that I can't physically teach you."

"Why not?"

"Because you don't have demonic chakra or a bloodline that allows you to bypass that. Haku uses a demonic art when she creates her ice mirrors, something she can accomplish through her bloodline."

"Then why can you do it?" Sakura whined. I winced, remembering that they didn't know about the seal on my stomach. Haku put a hand on my shoulder.

"There is a reason as to why Naruto is so strong," Haku stopped talking when I shook my head.

"It's my responsibility to say it. Besides, I'm proud of it. You two know about what happened twelve years ago when my father faced Kyuubi. He didn't die killing it, like the younger generation believes. He died sealing it."

"Sealing it into what?" Sakura asked pointedly. I undid my flak jacket and pushed my shirt away, showing my stomach. I pushed chakra to my skin and the black seal emerged.

"Into me. I was born right before the attack, my chakra coils weren't fully developed. My father took me to the battlefield and sealed half of Kyuubi's chakra into me to protect the village. The rest of the village was saved but my father died as per the deal."

"What deal?" Sasuke asked curiously. I looked at him, hopeful that he wouldn't panic and run to Orochi-teme.

"He made a deal with Shinigami, his body and soul for the sealing of the Kyuubi. That is what makes this seal so inescapable for the Kyuubi. I literally have a demon coexisting in my mind, our consciousnesses separate but able to communicate." At my words, Sakura paled. I saw her lips form the word 'communicate' and her eyes widened. "It isn't what you think, Sakura. Kyuubi is not influencing me. I added to the original seal to make sure of that," I said, pointing to my addition.

"Kyuubi has absolutely no control over my actions. If he doesn't like what I'm doing, all he can do is growl and pace my mind. Even then, I can temporarily cut the connection between our minds," I explained. Sakura calmed down a little and I suddenly remembered that her father was killed in Kyuubi's rampage.

Damn, the fox growled at himself. Can you tell her I said sorry, kit? Stupid Madara… If I ever see that masked bastard I'm going to-

Why don't you apologize? I said, an idea forming in my mind. Kyuubi didn't respond, only perked his ears up. Control your chakra, I warned.

"Sakura, you know I have a summoning contract and I feel extremely unfair as you are the only one present to not know which one. On top of that, I want you to meet someone," I said, trying to figure out what to say. "Turn around," I ordered. The kunoichi looked angry for a moment before Kakashi nodded at her sternly. She scoffed but turned around. My hands went through the seals and I muttered, "Kuchiyose no jutsu."

A puff of smoke and Kyuubi, a little larger than a large mortal fox, appeared. I chuckled as I saw him biting his paw in an attempt to control his chakra. I placed a hand on him and felt a surge of chakra pour into my system. I stored the chakra in a seal I had specially designed for demonic chakra, the seal hidden under my Hitai-ate. Watching Kyuubi's chakra get under control, I moved my hand so that I was simply scratching behind his ears.

At the sight of nine tails, Sasuke backed up into a tree. He had seen me summon demon foxes before but I had usually capped it off at four or five tails. The infamous Kyuubi no Kitsune was apparently a different story for the Uchiha.

"Tails," I hissed. Kyuubi nodded and closed his eyes in concentration. He became just a little smaller, the nine tails merging into one as he assumed his mortal fox form. He hated this form but took it whenever the occasion called for it. "Take a look, Sakura."

The kunoichi turned around and looked down, seeing the fox. Keeping his mouth shut, Kyuubi behaved admirably when he was picked up by the now cooing Haruno.

"Aww, he's so cute," she exclaimed, hugging the fox. I winced out of sympathy for my friend.

"He's one of my oldest friends. I've known this fox since the day I was born," I hinted. Moments passed and Sakura continued to squeeze the life out of a demon lord. Finally realizing what I had said, she dropped the fox and stumbled back, landing on her butt, stammering. Kyuubi dropped his head sadly. "He wanted to apologize. I thought it wouldn't be the same, coming from me," I explained. Kyuubi nodded, unable to speak while in this form. "He can't talk while he is in this form, he isn't in it often enough to learn with different vocal chords. I thought it'd be best if you saw him as with just one tail first."

"F-first?" she stammered, pointing at the fox. Kyuubi sighed, shrinking himself just a little more before jumping onto my shoulder, just like Koyuki.

"First," I confirmed. "I'm the holder of the demon fox summoning contract, the contract of which Kyuu is the boss summons. If I encounter a powerful enemy, I might need to summon Kyuu. If that happens, I need to make sure you will be okay to fight alongside him."

"Fight alongside that thing! Do you know what-"

"I do know, Sakura," I said quietly. "I lost my father that day, just like you did. No matter what you lose, I will always have lost more," I said, thinking about the last battle, the fall of Konoha. Kakashi bowed his head, remembering the same.

"I know, it's just that-" Sakura's voice drifted off as she stared at Kyuubi, her tone softening.

"Kyuubi," I said, allowing the change. He nodded once, stretching before he jumped off of my shoulder and growing on the way to the ground. His paws touching the dirt, his tail split into nine.

"Vixen," he said, looking at Sakura gently. "I know that I cannot say anything to make you trust me after what I did. I want you to know that I mean you no harm and that, twelve years ago, I did not attack by choice."

"A man tricked Kyuubi using his dojutsu," I said quietly. "A man that many now believe to be dead."

"Who?" Haku asked, curious.

"Uchiha Madara, co founder of Konoha," I growled at the name. "If my spy network is right, he's gathering followers so he can hunt down jinchuuriki. That is one of the things I was doing that year, warning every jinchuuriki I could. That is one of the reasons as to why Iwa hates me, the Tsuchikage discovered that I was trying to help their jinchuuriki, something they consider taboo."

"Taking down two dozen of his ninjas is another reason," Zabuza said, chuckling. I glared at him weakly.

"I didn't kill a single one of his ninjas. All of them were only unconscious when I left. If any died, it was because their higher ups ordered their execution for failing to kill me."

"What's a jinchuuriki?" Sakura asked, unfamiliar with the term. Sasuke nodded in the background.

"Jinchuuriki, the power of human sacrifice. Jinchuuriki is the name that the older generations use to label people like me, the hosts of any one of nine tailed beasts. The more tails, the more power. In theory, if I and any other jinchuuriki had a battle, I'd always be the victor because Kyuubi has a greater number of tails. However, most of a jinchuuriki's power lies in emotions, something most tailed beasts, or bijuu, disregard. Until I humanized Kyuu, he was a bloodthirsty demon with an intense hatred for humanity, especially towards me."

"Why? Naruto might be stupid but he isn't that bad," Sakura said, her voice quiet.

"He was my jailer," Kyuubi shrugged. "You spend that many years stuck inside a kit, you start to go insane."

"No, you started to protect me," I corrected. He grinned and sat down, rolling in the grass. "The great Kyuubi no Kitsune, fearless and merciless leader of the Demonic Foxes, rolling around in the grass. Sakura was right, you are cute," I smirked at the fox. He growled, sitting up and growing up he looked straight into my eyes, exactly level.

"You seem to think I wouldn't attack you."

"And you seem to think that I wouldn't-" I stopped talking, placing a hand on his shoulder, sucking up more of his chakra. I stored the chakra while he growled under my hand. "Bring you down to size."

"Sometimes, I really hate you, kit."

"Um… we're still here," Zabuza pointed out. I blinked, looking up at the gathered ninjas.

"Right. Why are you still here? Zabuza you can either stay and watch or go back to Tsunami's and tell them I kicked your ass. Haku, I'm going to summon Koyuki so you two can practice ice techniques. Kakashi, take Sasuke and teaching him your lightening techniques. If you start him on Chidori, I will hurt you; let him work his way up until he activates his Sharingan. Sakura, you will be training with myself and Kazura, one of my summons. I don't know too many earth jutsu but he specializes in them."

"Sounds like a plan," Kakashi nodded before nodding to Sasuke and running into the forest searching for another clearing.

"I'll stay," Zabuza shrugged.

"Okay. Kuchiyose no jutsu!" I shouted, slamming my palm onto the grass. A puff of smoke parted to reveal two foxes, Kazura and Koyuki. "Koyuki, you are going to help Haku with her ice technique again," I directed. The dark vixen nodded her head and grinned to Haku before leaving for the water.

"What am I doing, Naruto-sama?" Kazura asked, trying not to be disrespectful in front of Kyuubi, his lord and master.

"You will be helping Sakura with her earth jutsu. Teach her the seals to two jutsu and get a start on those. Sakura, when you finish that I will start teaching you medical ninjutsu. Kyuubi, you can enjoy some time out. Try not to step on anyone," I said. Sakura chuckled before Kyuubi shuddered and grew till he was easily fifteen feet tall. He glanced around himself, noting where everyone was, before walking away.

"Are you sure it's safe to let him walk around?"

"He's okay. I still have the connection to his mind. I can see his every thought and emotion; if he gets violent I can find him and suck him back into the seal with one touch," I said, smiling. Sakura seemed to calm down and walked with Kazura to the other side of the clearing. "Give me Kubikiri Houcho, I'll take to Hiraishin seal off," I said, offering my hand. Taking the sword I deactivated the seal with a quick pulse of chakra. I was about to give the blade back when I noticed a long scratch along the blade. "Who did that?"

"You did, just now. You didn't notice?"

"I guess not. I was a little busy not adding too much chakra to Mizuchi," I said.

"Well, you added enough chakra to cut steel," Zabuza said, chuckling as he reached for his sword. I shook my hand and ran my hand across the edge, cutting my hand open. "What are you-"

"Fixing your sword. It grows off of blood," I said, swiping my hand across the scratch. It filled itself, the blade growing half and inch longer. I handed the sword back to Zabuza, my hand already closing the wound. "Kyuu's chakra is like sake. It's okay the first few shots. Any more and you're in trouble."

Zabuza laughed at my analogy and took his sword back, securing it to his back. I watched as Sakura struggled to create her first rock wall, progressing from creating a pile of rubble to a wall six feet tall. Standing beside the solid wall, she fell to her knee, breathing deeply, and I smiled. I walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Good job. You learned this a lot faster than I did," I said truthfully. She nodded tiredly. " What a second," I said, pushing her back down. "I'm going to show you a technique that I created. I'll teach you how to do this but I don't think you should try it until you build up your chakra reserves."

One hand above her bellybutton and another on her forehead, to steady her, I carefully separated my chakra from Kyuubi's, taking a small portion of my own and sliding it in Sakura's chakra coils. She felt the exchange and flinched before her body recognized the chakra and accepted it, allowing it to replenish her reserves. I sat back when I was finished, letting Kyuubi send me more chakra than usual. My skin began to glow a faint red before it faded, the chakra being converted into usable energy. Sakura watched as her bruises and cuts faded away, as my skin shone red.

"What did you just do?"

"Chakra exchange. I separated my chakra from Kyuubi's and transplanted it into your chakra coils. The exchange nearly doubles the chakra, generating energy from the chakra I sent to you as soon as it enters your body, replacing what was lost and using the leftover chakra to heal any injuries you had. In theory, this technique shouldn't be possible, it eats away at the user's own energy, but I'll be fine. That's what the red glow with my skin was. Whenever I use that technique, Kyuu sends me more chakra to replenish my stores. My body converts it to usable energy and it gets sent back into my own coils. The reason I don't want you using this technique yet is because you aren't a jinchuuriki; you don't have enough chakra to perform this technique without either falling into a coma from chakra exhaustion or dying."

"So you gave me chakra?"

"Pretty much. Try not to talk about it to anyone outside of Team Seven, I'm going to talk to Hiruzen and get it classified as a kinjutsu."

"A forbidden jutsu? Why?"

"You need to understand something, Sakura. In a shinobi village such as Konoha, forbidden does not mean illegal. The label 'kinjutsu' is a warning to anyone that tries to use them. Kage Bunshin no jutsu, one of my favorite techniques, is a kinjutsu because of the potential harm to the user."

"What harm?"

"Death by chakra exhaustion. That applies to chakra exchange as well. If someone overuses it without the chakra to back it up, they could easily hurt themselves as well as the people around them. For example, if I hadn't separated Kyuubi's chakra from my own before transplanting it into you, your body would have attacked the demonic chakra."

"Would that have been bad?"

"That would have been very bad," I pressed. Sakura nodded, trying to look like she understood. "I changed my mind, I'm going to start on medical ninjutsu now."

"So do I still need to be here?" Kazura asked me. I shook my head and he said his goodbyes before disappearing in a puff of smoke.

"Where do we start, shishou?" Sakura asked, excited. I held up my hands, trying to protect myself.

"First, don't call me master. If anything, I'm a sensei," I said, scratching the back of my head nervously. Sakura nodded quickly. "Okay, second. What do you know about tenketsu?"

"They are the points in our body where chakra gathers."

"That is all they tell you in the Academy. Tenketsu are pressure points in the body that have the ability to release and mold chakra. There are 361 tenketsu in the body, all connected by the chakra network and regulated by the eight chakra gates," I began.

Sakura and I sat on the grass for most of the afternoon as I talked about how the body works. When Haku and Koyuki came back from training, Haku sat with Sakura, learning about medical ninjutsu.

I was talking about chakra exhaustion, when Sasuke and Kakashi trudged out of the forest, exhausted. I smiled at them.

"Great timing, I was just talking about chakra exhaustion. Can you two come over here?" I called, waving the two over. Kakashi sat next to me, Sasuke in between Sakura and myself.

"So we've been out there, doing really training, while you three have been over here chatting? That's wonderful," Sasuke muttered sarcastically.

"Thank you for being the first victim- I mean, patient- Sasuke!" I beamed, chuckling when he glared at me. "Haku, I showed you how to help chakra exhaustion last time I saw you. Will you show Sakura how to take care of it?"

"Okay. Sasuke, I need you to lie down," Haku said calmly. He grumbled but stretched out on the grass. Haku put a hand on his forehead and two fingers hovered over his heart. Haku closed her eyes in concentration and her fingers lit up with green energy. Opening her eyes, Haku lightly tapped the tenketsu close to his heart. Sasuke twitched but sat up slowly, feeling the touch of green energy spread quickly through his body warmly. He looked up at Haku, impressed.

"Thanks," he said, flexing his right hand.

"Good job, Haku. Sasuke, take it easy for a while. That technique is designed for short term only so rest up and get some food. Okay, Sakura your turn."

"Hai," she said, ordering Kakashi to lie down. He sweat dropped, but obeyed. Sakura mimicked Haku's pose, one hand on the jounin's forehead and two fingers held above his heart. She narrowed her eyes at her fingers and they lit up with green energy obediently. Watching the genin, I smiled, remembering her similar expression of concentration as she worked over Kankuro after his battle with Sasori.

She touched Kakashi's tenketsu and he lay still, knowing what to expect. The masked jounin smiled before sitting up slowly and nodding to Sakura.

"Perfect, Sakura. You have a lot of potential," I praised. Sakura beamed and looked at Kakashi who nodded.

"Good job, Sakura-chan," Haku said, smiling. "It took me a few tries the first time but you got it on the first. Naruto-kun is right, you have a lot of potential."

"Thank you, Haku-chan!" Sakura cheered. She had almost turned to Sasuke before remembering our conversation.

~Flashback~

"Why do you die if you open all eight gates?"

"The eight gates all have names, either hinting to their location or describing side effects. The eighth gate is named the Gate of Death. As the user opens more and more gates, they gain more power and can easier access the chakra stored naturally in their bodies, but at a huge risk."

"Risk?"

"Yes. The first gate, the gate of opening, allows the body to use muscles to their full potential. In truth, we don't use 80% of our muscular power to keep them from degeneration or disintegration. The fourth gate, the gate of pain, increases speed and power to the point where you can easily tear your muscles apart. The seventh gate, the gate of wonder, shreds muscle fibers. If anything or anyone touches the user after the gate closes, it causes extreme pain. The final gate, the gate of death, releases all of the body's energy. It converts every fiber of your being into pure strength. The eighth gate can give you powers stronger than any Kage, but the destruction done to your body will kill you as soon as it wears off."

"There's no chance to heal them?"

"None. Every attempt at doing so failed, always resulting in death for the opener of the gates." I paused, remembering another attempt that failed each time. Shaking my head, I changed the subject.

"Hey, Sakura, why do you like Sasuke so much? You spend every spare minute of your time trying to make him yours', and he won't look at you twice. Why? Is this a competition with Ino or do you think there is a chance that he'll eventually notice you?"

Sakura sat for a moment, looking confused. I was about to go back to anatomy when she answered with a question.

"Have you ever felt that, no matter how much someone ignores you, there is still some ulterior motive? That they do care, they just don't know it yet?"

"Of course. I used to feel that way about you."

"So what stopped you?" Sakura asked, almost begging.

"I realized it was a crush. I got over you and finally noticed Hina-chan standing in front of me," I answered. I saw her downcast face and I sighed. "I'm not saying that I want you to get over Sasuke. I'm not saying that you need to."

"Then what are you saying?" Sakura asked. Looking at her face, I realized she seemed almost close to tears.

"I'm saying you should try something else. The only reason he keeps blowing you off right now is because of your attitude. If Sasuke hates fan girls, don't be his fan girl. Let him hate Ino-pig," I added, purely for Sakura's benefit. She smiled almost sadly. "Don't go out of your way for him. If he won't notice when you're there, he'll have to notice when you aren't."

"What, playing hard to get?" Sakura said, chuckling.

"Sakura, if there is anything I know about Sasuke it is that he can't resist a challenge. There are only two possible explanations as to why he can't stand fan girls."

"What?"

"The first is that he's gay," I said, backing away when Sakura withdrew a handful of shuriken. I hit a tree and laughed nervously. "Moving on… The second is that wants something to work for. I've lived with him for a while; if he doesn't have to fight for something, he doesn't want it. He won't chase unless he thinks you're worth catching."

"So I'm supposed to act like I don't care what he thinks?"

"Exactly."

"And if that doesn't work?"

"Sakura, if that doesn't work he is gay. I'm not trying to be funny or insulting or whatever, you're a great kunoichi. Remember? Former obsession talking," I said, pointing to myself.

"But you got over it," she said sadly. I rolled my eyes.

"I found my soul mate. She waited for me. You might have to wait for yours'. I'm sorry if you didn't notice this, but us guys are really oblivious or stupid. Usually some combination thereof," I joked. Sakura smiled and gave me a quick hug.

"So… Gate of Death kills you?" she asked, returning us to the lesson.

"Who knew?" I laughed as Koyuki and Haku appeared from the trees.

~End Flashback~

After getting her compliments from Haku, Kakashi, and myself, Sakura turned back to me, ignoring Sasuke. Kakashi glanced between them but didn't comment.

"All right, I think that's enough for today. Haku, I need to talk to you," I said, standing. Everyone stood with me and started walking back to Tazuna's house, talking about the day's training.

"What is it, sensei?" she chuckled, smirking teasingly.

"I need you to go to Gatou. I need you to lie to him," I said, hating my words as Haku paled.

"But-"

"Haku, I wouldn't ask you if I didn't think I needed to. I've had spies in Wave for some time now. If you don't tell Gatou what you need to, there will be an attack at the construction site within a week. Even then, we can only delay it while we train," I said, trying to come up with a good cover for how I knew about the attack. It must have worked; Haku swallowed then nodded.

"What should I say?"

"I need you to tell him that Zabuza needs to recover. Say that Tazuna is being guarded by three genin and Sharingan Kakashi. Zabuza underestimated the genin and you needed to intervene. You took him down with senbon to the neck under the guise of a Mist hunter-nin. We believed your story and you took Zabuza away and began to heal him before you went to report."

"You don't want me to tell him about you?"

"No. Don't tell him about me, Sakura, or Sasuke. Just say three genin," I instructed. Haku nodded slowly.

"What if he asks for more details on the fight?"

"Rule number one of the missing-nin: know your clients. Gatou is good at intimidation and bad at planning ahead. Tell him you will beat us next time we meet. That'll be enough for him."

"Okay. I'll get going. Make sure they save some food for me," Haku said, kissing me on the cheek before flickering out of existence.

Chapter Text

The week passed quickly, uneventfully. We continued to train, separating into the groups I had created that first day. When Haku, who had experience with poisons, offered to help Sakura with that aspect of medical ninjutsu, I began to have kenjutsu spars with Zabuza, both of us teaching the other new tricks or techniques. There was no new action on the bridge, as I had predicted, until six days had passed. This time around, I gathered everyone before hand to set up a battle plan.

"Okay, here's the plan. I want everyone to take a Hiraishin kunai. Even you two," I said, looking at Inari and Tsunami. "I wouldn't put it passed Gatou to attack a defenseless family. If you need me, throw the kunai and I'll feel it, got it?" I asked. Inari and his mother nodded understandingly. "Zabuza, Haku, I want you too already there. If there are people messing with the bridge or the workers, take them out. I don't care if you kill them or not just make sure they can't move. If Gatou shows up before us, throw the kunai at his feet and I take care of his bodyguards while Zabuza takes care of Gatou. I've already placed Hiraishin seals all over the bridge. Meaning: if you see a yellow flash, don't throw a kunai at it, it will be me and I will not be very happy.

"If I was completely wrong, Gatou doesn't show, and the bridge is finished on schedule, we can all go on with our lives after I find Gatou and let Zabuza beat the crap out of him. Any questions?"

"Yeah, what is everyone else doing while you do all the work?" Sasuke asked, glaring.

"Fighting each other. We need to pretend that we are still enemies. Sasuke will fight Haku while Kakashi and I fight Zabuza and Sakura will protect Tazuna with Koyuki and Kazura."

"Okay, why am I fighting you?" Zabuza asked, not wanting to get beat up by a twelve year old in public.

"You won't be fighting me. You'll be fighting a series of clones, mask off. If you dispel one, don't worry, another will take it's place. I'll be in the background, mask on, making sure Gatou shows up. Any more questions?"

Glancing around the kitchen table, I saw nothing but determination. I nodded before smiling at Kakashi.

"I'm the captain today, sensei."

"You really are stealing all of my lines," he complained weakly. "Besides, you've been the captain this entire mission, taicho," he replied chuckling under his breath. I smiled and stretched.

"Sasuke, are you up for a taijutsu spar? I'm pretty tired now," I said, challenging the Uchiha to prove my point to Sakura. Sasuke glared at me and pointed at the door.

"You're on."

"Let's go on the water, work on your chakra control," I said, yawning. Sasuke twitched angrily and grabbed my wrist, pulling me towards the docks. I only smiled. Even as tired as I was, Sasuke might need some medical attention from one pink haired kunoichi who had conveniently learned how to mend bones earlier today. I smirked, knowing that she'd react indifferently as he winced in pain.

I shifted into my warau akuma stance, grinning sadistically.


Six minutes later, four of my shadow clones carried a thoroughly soaked, bruised, and somewhat broken Uchiha Sasuke through Tsunami's front door. I laid him down on the table and called for Sakura to meet me in the kitchen.

"What is- Naruto, you have to stop beating him up," she groaned. "At least hold off until I get better at medical ninjutsu!"

"I thought this would be a perfect challenge. Subject has… two cracks ribs, a broken wrist, a cracked femur, bruises head to toe, and a very nasty looking cut on his upper left arm," I reported. Sakura logged the information in her mind, surveying the damage with her eyes, before staring at my incredulously.

"A cracked femur?" she nearly shouted. "You do realize that the femur is the strongest bone in the human body! How'd you crack the strongest bone in his body sparring? Did you use the warau akuma again?"

"Maybe a little," I said, trying to shrink under Sakura's rage and hidden worry. "I could've healed him up but I thought this would be a good way to test how your doing."

"So you kicked his ass to test me? That's sweet of you," she muttered, her hands already glowing with green energy. I smiled to myself as she kept a straight face as she healed his ribs and wrist before turning to me, looking exhausted. "Can you take care of the femur? I'm still tired from sparring with Haku," she said a little breathlessly.

"Sure. Go eat something and go to sleep, I'll finish with him," I said, watching Sakura walk to the cupboards and pull out some crackers. She ate a few before saying goodnight and walking upstairs. When I heard her door close, I looked at Sasuke, his eyes open.

"I'm going to kill you," he threatened. I might have been just a little scared if he didn't wince when I poked his leg.

"That's not very nice," I said, holding my now green hand to his cracked bone. When the bone was healed, I moved my hand to his arm. The cut was about five inches long and jagged, resembling a lightning bolt, and oozing blood steadily. I frowned at it, knowing it would scar. "You are going to have a scar, even with my medical ninjutsu. It looks kind of like a lightning bolt… How did you do this? I know I didn't cause this."

"Who knows," he muttered. I was about to ask him what's wrong when he beat me to it. "What's Sakura's problem?"

"What do you mean?" I said, focusing on the bruises on my teammate's ribs. He coughed and shifted his weight awkwardly.

"He's been acting… weird around me ever since she started with the medical ninjutsu. Do you know what happened?"

"Weird how?" I asked, moving my hand to the side of his head, also bruised and swollen. He grimaced but held still.

"I don't know; not screaming every time she sees me?" he suggested. I stopped healing him to look at him for a moment.

"Maybe she got over you. It happens. A person gets a crush and realizes that their crush can't stand them. They move on. I guess Sakura's reached that point in her life," I said slowly, watching Sasuke's eyes- the only part of him that betrayed emotion. First there was relief, then confusion, followed quickly by determination. I mentally congratulated myself for having correctly analyzed Sasuke's mind.

"You sound pretty familiar with disappointment," he smirked, I smiled and shrugged, focused on my hands and keeping the demonic chakra away.

"I guess. I was obsessed with Sakura a few years ago. I was lucky Hina-chan waited for me to snap out of that. I bet Sakura is pretty upset; she doesn't have anyone waiting for her since she and Ino fell out, competing over you."

"You're pretty comfortable talking about your feelings," Sasuke scoffed. I smirked and stopped treating him.

"You're pretty comfortable insulting the person who is healing you," I retorted. Taking pity on him, and knowing that we'd need him tomorrow, I resumed healing him. "Either way, between the two of us, I'm the one with a girlfriend. Okay, I'm not saying that you should stop hating fan girls, I totally understand that. I think you should try to let them down without crushing their hopes and dreams."

"Why?"

"Were you really Rookie of the Year? You are so oblivious," I said, shaking my head. Sasuke quieted and looked at me, wondering what I was talking about. "I'll explain this slowly for you. You can't rebuild your clan without getting married. Which, if you don't know, involves getting a girlfriend and proposing to her."

"You're pretty confident. How are you so sure of you and Hinata?" Sasuke said, rolling his eyes.

"Because I've already talked to her father. The paperwork is all taken care of, Hiashi was happy to be tied to the Namikaze name. I'm going to propose when she becomes a chuunin," I said, finished healing his injuries.

"That's ridiculous! You're twelve!" he sat up on the table, his eyes shocked.

"I'm a jounin. If you hadn't noticed, as soon as this team gets broken up I'm to be sent out on potentially suicide missions. On top of that, Hinata-chan is my soul mate. I picked up more than whiskers from Kyuubi. I know how to recognize my future mate. What do you have to say for yourself? You don't let yourself get close to anyone!" Noticing how loud I was, I bit my tongue while Sasuke came up with a reply, also quieting.

"If you hadn't noticed, everyone I've gotten close to is dead," he growled. I glared at him.

"So what am I? I was there with you Sasuke," I said quietly. "We were training and I bought you ramen. Or don't you remember? I was with you the first time you saw Fugaku and Tera. I was next to you when you saw the balance of Konoha. I've trained with you and sparred with you for years. If everyone you've cared for is dead, what does that say about me?"

I left Sasuke in the kitchen, walking to my room without looking back once. Landing on my blankets, thoughts of the last Sasuke came rushing into my mind.

Did you see what's inside my heart, Sasuke? If you saw what I saw… Save all of your hate for me. I'm the only person who can take it. When we fight, both of us will die.

I froze my thoughts, stopping the memories. I forced myself to fall asleep, focusing on tomorrow.


I didn't sleep well but I never expected to. I woke up first and woke Sakura up, leaving her to wake up the others as I went looking for Sasuke. Not finding him in the house, I dashed to the clearing we'd been using for training. Seeing him lying on the grass, surrounded by small craters and fallen trees, I smiled. It was Sasuke to spend all night training this time.

"Sasuke… Sasuke, wake up," I said, shaking him. When he refused to wake up, I frowned, seeing how little chakra he had left. It wasn't enough to be dangerous, but it could endanger the mission. Thoughts aside, I did another chakra exchange. He woke up as the chakra entire his system, jerking him awake. I held him down until his body accepted my chakra then released him, sitting down as my skin flushed red.

Glancing down at his healing scrapes, Sasuke flexed his muscles and noticed that nothing hurt.

"What'd you do?" he asked.

"Medical ninjutsu I created. I'm going to make it a kinjutsu as soon as we get back," I decided, feeling my own muscles slow before Kyuubi healed them.

"Why? It worked really well."

"Yeah but it can kill the user. Not me, a normal person," I said, calming the confused panic that rose in Sasuke's eye for just a moment. "If I had your or Sakura's chakra reserves, that jutsu would've killed me."

"What's it called?" Sasuke said, glancing at me.

"Chakra exchange. I transplanted my chakra into your coils. Very easy but dangerous for you."

"Why?" he asked, the suspicion narrowing his black eyes fractionally.

"Kyuubi. If I gave you any of his chakra by mistake, your body would reject it and fight it, treating it like an infection. That wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that demonic chakra is much more potent than human chakra. It would take over in a matter of minutes and dissolve your body from the inside out. Any questions?"

"Seriously?"

"No," I smiled before taking up a serious façade. "It probably wouldn't dissolve your body. Just give you a very painful, lasting death. But that's not important, I'm good at separating the chakras."

Sasuke didn't look convinced. I chuckled before getting serious again.

"Everyone else is leaving we need to- oh no," I said, feeling the kunai I'd given to Inari thrown.

"What is it?"

"Trouble at the house. Get to the bridge as fast as you can, I'll take care of Inari and Tsunami. Sakura isn't strong enough to really battle with Haku," I said closing my eyes. I put my mask on quickly, ready to disembowel some thugs. I stayed long enough to hear a confirmation but no longer, opening my eyes to the living room.

"I think I heard someone in the-" the man's next words were cut off as I slit his throat. I dashed behind his body and took him down. I took them to the front lawn and burned them with a quick but powerful fire jutsu. Seeing Inari staring at me with wide eyes, I saluted.

"Sorry I can't stay, if there's trouble here-" I was cut off my Sakura's kunai thrown. "Get the villagers, meet me at the bridge." Once again I closed my eyes, opening them to a battle. Kakashi and Zabuza were fighting, each seeming to give it their all. Haku was still hiding in the trees and Sasuke had not yet arrived.

"Sasuke?" Sakura asked.

"On his way. I needed to go back to the house. Don't worry, Tazuna. Inari and Tsunami are fine. I need to help Kakashi… Kuchiyose no jutsu!" I shouted. Kazura, Koyuki, and Kyuubi appeared in a puff of smoke. "Sorry, Kyuu, need a little chakra," I said, putting a hand on his leg. He shrunk and my body converted the demonic chakra into usable chakra. "Koyuki, Kazura, defend Tazuna with Sakura. Kyuu, we're going to 'fight' Zabuza. Don't kill him."

"That ruins half the fun," Kyuubi complained, running with me towards Zabuza and Kakashi.

"Hey, Kakashi! Sorry we're late. Momochi Zabuza. I thought the hunter-nin killed you," I said, chuckling. Zabuza growled.

"Takes more than a few senbon to kill me," he insisted. I put a hand on my katana, drawing it in a fluid motion.

"How about a katana? Think that'll work, Kakashi?" I felt Sasuke arrived, skidding to a stop as Haku leapt out to meet him.

"Let's find out," he said, Sharingan glaring. I nodded, activating akuma no me.

"Kage Bunshin no jutsu!" I shouted through my mask. "Zabuza! When you see your friends in hell, tell them Kiiroi Kitsune says hi," I smirked, knowing this was going to be a short battle.


I knelt, silent as Gatou began his victory monologue. Kakashi stood at my side, breathing deeply from the 'fight'. He and Zabuza did go full out. I got a workout.

"It's a good thing you're so vulnerable now, Momochi. I was planning on killing you anyway," he chuckled. Haku was safely out of the way, knocked unconscious by Sasuke during their match. "But, I had never expected to see the Kiiroi Kitsune. I never heard you were a team player."

"Araiguma, Pyrai, Suki, Yugito; I'm never by myself, if that's what you mean," I shrugged, standing.

"But a bunch of genin? You're standards are lowering, my friend," he laughed. In a flash, I had a kunai at his throat. His bodyguards moved towards me before falling to the ground, each slashed by Zabuza's Decapitating Blade, held in my right hand. I heard Zabuza complain about me taking his sword, cracking his neck as Kakashi helped him to stand.

"Don't insult my team. You miscalculated, Gatou," I whispered in his ear. I dragged him through the Hiraishin, locking onto Kakashi's kunai. Still holding the short man, I passed Zabuza's sword to its owner. "I told you that you could kill him," I said, releasing the man. Zabuza grinned under his bandages.

"Run, little man," he growled. Gatou jumped and ran towards Tazuna- only to have Haku jump up and slash a kunai across his chest. The man fell back. "You couldn't let me have one?" Zabuza asked Haku. The girl only grinned at the now bleeding man. I turned away as the man began to scream, turning towards his army of thugs.

"As for you," I shouted. "Anyone brave- or stupid, I don't judge- enough to face me? No? Not one person? Okay then, Kage Bunshin no jutsu!" I shouted, surrounding the army with clones. "Try not to get too much blood on the bridge," I said. Each of my clones grinned sadistically, their blues eyes turning red as they activated demon eyes. They stored their kunai and rushed the thugs, striking tenketsu instead of slashing their enemy. I watched as my clones did the work, turning to Zabuza and Kakashi, both looking at me with wide eyes. "What?"

"Naruto! You're scaring the jounin!" Sakura yelled from the other side of the bridge, walking towards us. Kazura and Koyuki walked at her flanks, Tazuna close behind. I smiled as Sasuke and Haku, flecked with blood, joined the group. I took off my mask and smiled sheepishly towards the jounin.

"Sorry," I said, scratching the back of my head. Zabuza laughed, turning towards Haku and giving her a proud nod. The girl beamed and her smile lost it's blood thirst, becoming gentler and sweeter. Kakashi rolled his eyes before pulling his Hitai-ate back over Obito's eye, turning to Tazuna.

"I don't think you'll have any trouble," Kakashi said, glancing at the thugs my clones had taken care of. Tazuna nodded, messing up my hair again.

"Nice work, kid," he chuckled. I ducked from his hand, grimacing.

"Stupid chakra," I muttered. Glancing up, I saw Sakura looking at me, confused. "Kyuu's chakra makes me grow slower. I'll probably be short for the next two or three years. Either way, I think this mission is over."

"Yeah. When we get back to Konoha this will be recorded as an A-rank and, when Wave recovers, I expect that we'll be paid for it," Kakashi said pointedly to Tazuna. He nodded, smiling sheepishly.

"Zabuza, Haku, you two should come back with us to Konoha," I suggested. "Sandaime is smart, he'll trust my word but he'll also want to meet you." The two nodded and I smiled as Inari and the villagers ran up.

"We missed it?" I heard Inari shout from the other side of the bridge. I shrugged and followed my kunai to him.

"Just barely. Ten more minutes and you would've seen everything. What's important is that Gatou is dead and his thugs are either dead or paralyzed. The paralysis will wear off after a few hours so I think you should decide what to do with them before that," I said, pointing at the hired hands. "Oh, yeah. I need the two kunai I gave to you and your mother."

"Yeah, she thought you might," he said chuckling, holding up two Hiraishin kunai. I smiled and took them back, resealing them. "Do you have to leave already?"

"Yeah," I said, looking back at Team Seven. "If I don't go with them the Hokage would be disappointed."

"You're pretty close to Hokage-sama, aren't you?" Inari asked, glancing at my team, laughing together.

"He's like my ojiisan. He let Kakashi adopt me and I'm pretty sure he's been pulling strings to make sure I'm safe when I'm in Konoha. I've been surrounded by ANBU for most of my life, they only stopped when I became an official elite jounin," I explained, thinking fondly of the Professor. I yawned and stretched as Sakura ran towards me.

"Naruto-sensei, we're getting ready to leave," she reported. Inari looked a little surprised at the suffix but I waved him off.

"I'm coming, I just want to say goodbye. I'll be back as soon as I can, Inari. Believe it," I chuckled. Inari nodded, trying not to look sad. I messed up his hair and gave him a smile. "Be a hero, Inari. Your country needs one," I said, walking back to the group.

Walking away, I heard Inari's voice, quiet and calm.

"They already have one."

I smiled. Once again, Tazuna and the villagers came up with a name and The Great Naruto Bridge was complete.

Chapter Text

The Hokage's office was very crowded. Team Seven was gathered in the middle, Haku and Zabuza close to me. The Hokage sat at his desk, not saying a word as he studied the two missing-nin. The ANBU beside him looked tense and I struggled against a laugh as their hands twitched towards their swords. Worst of all, Danzo stood in between the elders, directly behind Hiruzen. The silence thickened as they all studied the mask hiding my face.

~Flashback, at the Village Gates~

"Oi, Naruto," Kakashi called behind me.

"What's up?" I squinted, the rising sun in my eyes.

"We're almost at Konoha; are you sure about the mask?" he said, staring pointedly at the mask I had just unsealed.

"Of course I'm sure. I said I was going to tell the village when the mission was over. Guess what? The missions over and I brought home a couple of missing-nin. I'm sure the council will want some explanation as to why we didn't fight. Kiiroi Kitsune is a more known name than Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto," I reasoned. Sasuke sighed and Sakura shrugged.

After a few more minutes of walking, we reached the gates. Striding towards the guard, I watched as the chuunin nearly fell out of his chair, recognizing me. I looked back at everyone else.

"Yes, you do have that effect on people," Haku answered before I had a chance to ask. I sighed and looked back at the man, not touching my mask.

"You. Tell the Hokage, Danzo, and the ninja council to get their asses to the Hokage's office. I know where it is, I'll meet them there. Ja ne," I said, Shunshining into the village, close to the gates. I heard Sakura report that Team Seven had returned from a successful mission, apologizing for my, the Kiiroi Kitsune's, rudeness. I chuckled as the chuunin nearly fainted, waving them all in without a glance to Zabuza or Haku.

~End Flashback~

"Why are you here?" Nara Shikaku asked warily. I shrugged, lowering my voice.

"Iwa, Kiri, Ame, Kumo, Suna, Taki, Tani, Ishi, Yume, Yuki, and dozens of other villages and countries later- You'd think people would stop asking thing like 'why are you here' and 'what do you want'. I don't usually answer that type of question. Good start, Shikaku-san. Try again," I smiled behind my mask, trying not to let the humor into my voice. Shikaku thought before glancing around me.

"Where is Naruto?" he asked. I nodded, smiling.

"And that is why you are jounin commander," I said, letting my smile color my voice. "There is something I need everyone in this room to know about. You are not, under any circumstances allowed to reveal this information with anyone unless I give you permission to do so. If I find out that you have, I will personally deliver your punishment. You may leave now if you don't want the temptation. This is highly sensitive information which, as of right now, only thirteen people in the world know, six of them being in this room." Nobody left. Glancing around the room, Shikaku cleared his throat.

"What did you want to tell us?" he asked, his eyes catching the Namikaze ring on my finger. I stared him down, forcing him quiet.

"My identity. If my real name escapes this room at this point in time, I can guarantee that Iwa and Kumo will get over their differences and forge an alliance so that they can attack Konoha, probably allied with the Yondaime Kazekage."

"Why would they attack us? We didn't do anything to Kumo and we haven't touched Suna or Iwa since the last war," Inoichi asked, his eyes wide with indignation. Shikaku shook his head.

"Unknowingly and indirectly we have invaded them," he said, making Inoichi turn on him. "It was not ordered by anyone in the Leaf, Inoichi. Take off the mask, Naruto."

The inevitable gasps filled the room. Sasuke scoffed, rolling his eyes while Haku and Sakura laughed with each other. I moved my hand to my mask and took off the yellow mask. Shikaku nodded, a little smug.

"You always were sharp, Shikaku-san. You saw the ring, right?" I said, holding up my right hand as the scarred ninja nodded. I coughed, turning to everyone else. "Okay, yes, I admit it. I am the Kiiroi Kitsune, Kitsune-sennin, and Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto…" I meant to continue dramatically but I took one look at Danzo's bandaged face and cracked up. When I straightened, I wiped a tear from my eye. "Danzo, you should see your face! Okay, matters at hand," I said, smiling. The smile disappeared when Danzo leaned towards Hiruzen, whispering in his ear. With my hearing, I heard every word.

"See what I told you? The boy was meant to be a weapon from day one. I didn't influence any aspect of his life and he still grew to be a tool," he smiled smugly.

"Oi, Danzo! I can hear every single word you're saying," I shouted. I calmed down, glancing at the other ninjas who had not heard a word. "Danzo is boasting about how perfect a weapon I've become without his influence."

"Too bad you have emotions," Kakashi said sarcastically, winking his visible eye. I shrugged.

"If only, right?" I chuckled, not looking behind me. "There is a reason why I never wanted to be ROOT, Danzo. You treat people like chess pieces on your political chessboard. You dehumanize people," I said coldly. "Kuchiyose no jutsu," I muttered.

Having been privy to my thoughts Kyuubi appeared the size of a normal fox. I put a hand on his head and sealed away the chakra he could not control before he could try to destroy something, driven by his chakra. The shinobi in front of me stepped back as one, only Team Seven, Haku, and Zabuza staying in place. Sakura even scoffed at the reaction, ignoring her own initial response to Kyuubi's thrashing tails.

"Yes, Kyuubi no Kitsune is standing in the Hokage's office. He is not doing any damage, not killing or hurting anyone, and has been doing that each time I've summoned him unless I specifically tell him to do so," I said, watching Kyuu sit down, releasing a low growl.

"Danzo," he snarled. "If I didn't have a debt to this village, I'd kill you where you stand." The room was silent until Inoichi nodded at the fox.

"It's strange, seeing you outside of Naruto's mindscape…" he mused, walking out of the huddle and towards Kyuubi, many council members trying to stop him. "Quiet, Chouza. He and Naruto are good friends, Kyuubi wouldn't try anything if he thought Naruto or his friends may be injured," he said, brushing off the Akimichi's warnings.

"Yamanaka," Kyuubi nodded at the blonde ninja. I turned to the council, blocking out Kyuubi's mind as he and Inoichi talked like old friends.

"I need to address this council. That is why you are here. I call a council meeting in forty minutes to discuss the futures of missing-nin Momochi Zabuza and Yuki Haku," I announced.

"Granted," Hiruzen said, nodding. "Where will they stay for the duration of the meeting?"

"At my house. I need to pick up a few things before the meeting," I replied, nodding at my kenjutsu teacher and medical ninjutsu student. "Also, I request for the meeting to be given top priority status. We are talking about two human lives that shouldn't have to wait for their answer."

"Granted. The council shall meet in the Council Room at noon," the Professor announced. The council members all left, getting ready for the meeting and going to tell the clan heads that weren't there.

"Team Seven, congrats on your first real mission," I said, smiling at my team. "I'm giving you two days off. Don't waste it. Dismissed," I ordered. The two genin smiled and walked out of the office. "Hiruzen-ojiisan, I have a mission request."

"Didn't you just give your team a chance to relax? You just came back from a mission."

"This is important. I'd like to be allowed to leave Konoha. I'd like to find an old student of yours'."

"Which one?"

"Senju Tsunade," I answered seriously. "Sakura has immense potential as a medical kunoichi. I can teach her everything that Tsunade can but I can't give her the same relationship from student to master. Sakura needs someone other than me to turn to when things don't go her way. I'd also like to find Jiraiya. He's beginning to poke around, trying to get information on me. I need to make sure he knows I support Konoha."

"I'll think about it. Go get ready for the meeting, it's nearly ten," he advised, standing from his desk. I nodded and turned to Zabuza and Haku, Kakashi already gone.

"Let's get going, the Namikaze Manor is a little far from here, in the noble district," I said, grimacing as Zabuza chuckled.

"Doing well for yourself, Kitsune?"

"It's an inheritance, and I told you to call me Naruto," I grumbled. Haku smiled serenely as I lead her and laughing swordsmen out of the office and further into Konoha.

I got the last laugh when Zabuza's eyes widened when we entered the richer parts of Konoha. This is where the higher clans lived, along with a number of rich merchant families. Walking the route towards my home, I waved to everyone I knew.

Passing the mostly abandoned Uchiha compound, I stepped inside to talk to Tori, the current clan head of the remains of Uchiha. After a reunion with Sasuke, she and her children moved back into the Uchiha compound, taking one of the smaller, cozier homes as their own. Sasuke had declined her invitation to move in with her, staying in Kakashi's apartment.

Skipping the chitchat, I told her about the meeting and introduced her to Zabuza and Haku.

"Tori-chan, I don't really want to play the politics card- Namikaze and Uchiha were allied in the past, blah, blah, blah- but I'd really appreciate it if you stay open minded to what I'll say," I said genuinely. Tori thought about it for a while before nodding.

"I will. Either way, you have good judgment. If you say something and it makes sense, I'll agree with it."

"Thank you, Tori-chan. Bye Fugaku-kun, bye Tera-chan!" I called into the house. The twins, now three years old, ran out and gave me a hug before dashing back into the house, playing ninja. "I'll see you at the meeting, Tori-chan," I said, smiling as I lead Zabuza and Haku out of the compound and further down the street, stopping at the Namikaze gates.

"This is us," I announced, biting my thumb and opening the blood seal. Zabuza looked into the compound and whistled. "My father was the only Namikaze left in Konoha when I was born. The whole compound and the wealth of the clan belongs to me according to the documents I found in my father's desk."

"The wealth of the clan… Pretty important sounding," Zabuza commented, glancing at the houses as we passed each heading towards the Manor. Coming into sight of it, I pointed at it.

"It is. All of the clan business, money, jutsu, and appearance is my responsibility. No pressure or anything," I said, rolling my eyes as I opened the front door and stood to the side, letting the two missing-nin in first. That would've worked if they hadn't paused at the doorway. "It's a house, it won't bite," I promised.

"You need to have a party," Haku breathed, walking into the secondary living room. This was the room designed for guests of the clan head; nobody spent any time in this room unless they were trying to impress someone.

"Ignore this room. This is where guests of the clan head have tea, or something like that. I hate politics," I said, leading them to the primary living room. "Okay, the kitchen is through that door if you get hungry. The fridge and shelves are stocked, just don't eat all my food. You can explore the house but touch the rooms with Kyuubi drawn onto the door and I will kill you," I said, thinking about my bedroom and my father's study- the door to the Namikaze clan records. The two nodded and I smiled. "Stay here for a minute, I need to get some papers from my dad's office."

I was about to leave the room when I glanced at Zabuza's sword.

"Actually, I need to establish some rules. No jutsu, swordfights, or training inside or close to any of the houses. If you get bored or want to train, go out the front door and to the training ground on your left. That is the field I use so it's already set up."

I nodded to myself and walked down the hall to my father's office, the door glowing with a golden fox with nine tails. I opened the door and sat at the desk, opening the filing cabinet and digging through the files for the right papers. Finding them, I left the office and found a note on my coffee table in the living room.

Got bored, went training. By the way, where do you keep your gauze?

Zabuza

I grabbed a roll of gauze with instructions for a weak cauterizing jutsu that I wanted Haku to learn anyway. I tied the two into a bundle and threw it, hard, from my front lawn. I didn't move until I heard Zabuza exclaim in surprise and then in pain. I could hear Haku's laugh from the main gates.

Chapter Text

I stopped at the memorial stone on my way to the council meeting. Ten minutes later, I dragged Kakashi through the door, the latter shouting in protest. Raising my voice over the Copy Nin, I apologized for our lateness.

"Sorry, I knew Kakashi would be… delayed. Not wanting this meeting to be overlong, I thought I'd drag, I mean bring, Kakashi along." Half the council chuckled under their breath.

Looking around the room, I was reminded of the Five Kage Summit. Every council member sat at a long table shaped like a horseshoe. There were fifteen seats on the official council, twelve ninjas and three civilians. Hiruzen and Danzo sat inside the horseshoe, neither had a vote, they were there to witness. Each ninja clan head was backed by a clan council member. The civilians each had their spouse or child with them. Releasing Kakashi, I took my own seat.

Just as the clans were separated into upper and lower levels, as was the council. The founding clans of Konoha- the Senju, Uchiha, and Namikaze- sat in the center, directly across from the Hokage. They were in the best position to listen and be heard by the other clans. The Senju seat was empty, leaving me sitting besides Tori with a chair in between us. Sitting down at my seat, I smiled to her. She waved back, smiling before turning to talk to Tsume, who sat to her left.

I did a head count, recognizing the ninja on the council. At the north end, my far right, sat a civilian. He was followed by the empty Kurama seat. Then there was Akimichi Chouza, sitting besides Yamanaka Inoichi. Kakashi sat in between Inoichi and Hiashi, who was seated at my right. After me was the empty Senju chair before the Uchiha space, occupied by Tori. Inuzuka Tsume was at Tori's left, followed by Nara Shikaku. Sarutobi Asuma was besides Shikaku, Aburame Shibito at his left. Two civilians sat in the next two chairs, conversing with the shinobi easily.

Hiruzen called for silence and nodded at me to begin.

"Before I explain my thoughts to this council, I'm afraid that you must listen through a little back story. Today, my genin team came back from what was assigned as a C-rank mission. It turned A-rank when we encountered Momochi Zabuza, also known as the Demon of the Bloody Mist, who was hired to assassinate the man that Team Seven was guarding. Recognizing my mask as the Kiiroi Kitsune, he stopped his assault before it started. I took the time to talk to him and convince him into leaving Tazuna, the man we were hired to protect, alone. He agreed and stayed with us for the duration of the mission. I called this mission because I'd like to petition the council for Konoha citizenship for both Zabuza and his student Haku."

"Why do you feel so obligated to help a man that, as you just said, threatened your mission? Wouldn't it be better to send him back to Kiri and let their council deal with him?" Chouza asked. Kakashi shook his head.

"I'm familiar with both Zabuza's and his student's backgrounds. You are all aware of the Bloodline Purges that took place in the Hidden Mist. Zabuza was declared a missing-nin because he didn't believe in killing people because of their lineage. Haku, his student, was a victim of those purges. Her mother was of the Yuki clan, if I'm not mistaken, with the kekkai genkai ability to use ice techniques. When Haku's father learned of their abilities, he murdered Haku's mother. He would've kill Haku as well if her bloodline limit had activated and saved her even though the self-defense took her father's life. She was found by Zabuza and he took her in and trained her."

"That may answer Chouza's second question but it fails to satisfy the first. Why should we help someone who has been our enemy in the past?" Tsume said, reminding me of why I hated politics. Every word came back to haunt you.

"This man was never our enemy. The life of a missing-nin is hard, you find work where you can get it; you don't ask questions. If something goes wrong, the world looks at you with contempt and derision because you are a broken tool, as far as they care. Let me answer your question with one of my own, Tsume. If you see a dog with a broken leg, would you shut the door in it's face? Send it back to the one that hurt it?"

"The Demon of the Bloody Mist is hardly an injured dog," Tsume laughed darkly.

"Is he? Have you ever wondered where your next meal is coming from? Worried if the hunter-nin are going to find your camp? That type of anxiety is crippling and, unlike a broken bone, it doesn't always mend with time."

"You are getting off topic, Naruto," Shikaku said, leaning back in his chair. "Tsume and Chouza bring up a good point, even if they aren't the clearest delivering it. What makes you so sure that we can trust this man? He's turned on one village, what makes Konoha so different for him?" I thought about my reply, not wanting to throw Tsume a bone.

"I've lived for a year outside of Konoha's walls. Outside of protection, all rules and regulations thrown out the window. I've seen and done things that would terrify a third of this council. By all definitions, I should've been declared a missing-nin. What makes you so sure you can trust me? I've been as impartial as I can to the various nations, what makes this council think they deserve the same treatment?"

"You're a Konoha nin!" Tsume shouted. I shrugged.

"Why am I a Konoha nin? Why does the council believe I deserve to wear this Hitai-ate?" There was no reply. "What makes this council believe that I'm so different from these two ninja? More importantly, why does this council believe that they're so different from these two ninja?" I finished quietly, leaning forward so I could see everyone.

"You sound attached to the two," Shikaku noted. "Have you met them before this mission?"

"Yes," I answered truthfully. "Araiguma and I had just left Cloud when two dozen Kumo nin ambushed us, believing that we were trying to kidnap their two tailed jinchuuriki, Nii Yugito and B-sama. We fought and Araiguma was badly wounded. I knocked out the rest of their ninjas with a chakra pulse, a skill I learned while traveling, and went to heal Araiguma when I heard Haku laughing in the trees. She and Zabuza came out and we talked. After learning who I was- Kiiroi Kitsune- he offered to train me in kenjutsu. I agreed and he taught me for six weeks. We left the two in Grass."

"So you want to help an old friend?" Tori asked.

"Yes and no. Konoha has been weakening over the past few years. Don't deny it, Danzo. You've watched your precious ROOT getting killed. My request is that you allow Haku and Zabuza to join Konoha's ranks. Monitor them if you want, let them start slow to test their loyalty, but let them eventually come back. They are both highly skilled, an attribute Kakashi can vouch for."

Kakashi nodded when most of the council looked his way. Asuma lit another cigarette.

"If their so highly skilled, what makes you think they won't turn on us and cripple us more?" he said, examining one of his chakra blades in the light.

"The fact that Haku is one of the people I count as my friends and the fact that Zabuza knows my kenjutsu beats his. He won't challenge Konoha even if he remains a missing-nin, as long as I'm allied with you. Also, he wouldn't turn down a chance for Haku to have a reasonably normal life, something she's never had. Don't misinterpret me, threaten Haku and I will join him as he hunts you down."

"You seem confident threatening the council," Danzo said, narrowing his eyes. I was about to say something in reply when Aburame Shibito answered for me.

"Naruto is a twelve year old jounin, Danzo-sama. I'm inclined to believe he's strong enough to back his words. He also seems a good judge of character. If he thinks Zabuza will seek retribution, he probably will," Shino's father said in a monotone. I nodded and looked around the council.

"I'm well aware of who is opposed to this request. I'd like to bring out one more point before we vote."

"What is it now?" Hiashi sighed. I smiled, knowing that he wasn't going to go against my vote in the long run.

"As sole inheritor of the Namikaze clan, I have access to my clan's financial records. I'm not going to say names, but I will say that a number of the people of this council, and the clans they watch over, have built up substantial debts to my clan. I'd probably be inclined to lessen or forget the debts of those who keep an open mind," I said watching Tsume, Chouza, and one of the civilians fume. I noticed that Inoichi looked a little nervous but Tori shrugged, not caring about the debts of the dead. She smiled at me and nodded. I smiled in return, knowing that I had her vote. "Are we ready for a vote?"

Each member battled against their judgment until each nodded. I nodded at the civilian in the north end.

"Shrina, no," he shook his head slowly.

"Akimichi, no," Chouza said adamantly. I shrugged.

"Yamanaka, yes."

"Hatake, yes."

"Hyuuga, yes."

"Namikaze, of course."

"Uchiha, yes."

"Inuzuka… yes," Tsume growled, glaring at me.

"Nara, yes."

"Sarutobi, no."

"Aburame, yes."

"Takou, no."

"Onoi, yes."

Danzo counted up the votes and grimaced angrily before nodding to the Hokage, who smiled briefly.

"Request for Konoha citizenship for Momochi Zabuza and Yuki Haku granted by Konoha's Council of Clans. Dis-"

"Not quite, Hokage-sama," I said apologetically. The council glared at me, not wanting to spend more time in this room.

"What is it, Naruto?" he asked patiently. I smirked, recognizing the expression: relief at delaying the inevitable: paperwork.

"I'd like to announce two things to the council before we break. The first is that my identity is no longer a matter of secrecy. Tell anyone you want, the more the merrier. The second is news of my engagement. Her father and I have already decided to wait until after she is promoted to chuunin," I announced. Most of the council looked a little shocked, watching a twelve year old jounin say he's engaged.

"Who are you marrying and when can I tell her congratulations?" Tori asked, the first to recover. Hiashi, much to my relief, took pity.

"He's marrying my eldest daughter, Hyuuga Hinata. Have you told her yet, Naruto?" he asked, turning to me.

"Did I mention I've been in Wave for the past two weeks? And that I just got back today? And then had to come here?" I asked, the questions somewhat rhetorical and somewhat sarcastic.

"So? I want to congratulate her!" Tori shouted. I winced before remembering that she didn't get to have her white wedding, her children's father acting as my spy. "Ooh, do you think she'll let me help plan her wedding?" she went on. After a while I began to tone her out.

"Hey, Tori? Where are Fugaku and Tera?" I asked, noticing the lack of twins. Tori nodded, her eyes lighting up.

"They're with Hinata! Let's go! You need to propose!" she shouted, dragging me by the wrist. I briefly wondered if all kunoichi suffered from dual personalities.

Chapter Text

Most of the council looked a little shocked, watching a twelve year old jounin say he's engaged.

"Who are you marrying and when can I tell her congratulations?" Tori asked, the first to recover. Hiashi, much to my relief, took pity.

"He's marrying my eldest daughter, Hinata. Have you told her yet, Naruto?" he asked, turning to me.

"Did I mention I've been in Wave for the past two weeks? And that I just got back today? And then had to come here?" I asked, the questions somewhat rhetorical and somewhat sarcastic.

"So? I want to congratulate her!" Tori shouted. I winced before remembering that she didn't get to have her white wedding, her children's father acting as my spy. "Ooh, do you think she'll let me help plan her wedding?" she went on. After a while I began to tone her out.

"Hey, Tori? Where are Fugaku and Tera?" I asked, noticing the lack of twins. Tori nodded, her eyes lighting up.

"They're with Hinata! Let's go! You need to propose!" she shouted, dragging me by the wrist. I briefly wondered if all kunoichi suffered from dual personalities.


Hey, Hina-chan? Get ready for Tori; she's a little… excited, I warned. Hinata's emotions displayed confusion and I felt her digging around my mind, finding my most recent memories.

You're proposing now? We're twelve, she thought, trying to hide her happiness and excitement at my announcement. Wait, you talked to my father? When?

About two months ago. Right after we got team assignments. Anyway, watch out; Tori never had her white wedding. She wants to plan yours'. I'm pretty sure she's deciding what flowers to order,I decided, studying the Uchiha's face. Tori was nineteen, a mother of twins, and a chuunin instructor, but she couldn't keep the happiness off her features. Not for long.

"So who knows? Does Kakashi? Stupid question, Kakashi is part of the council… Does Sasuke know? What about Sakura? Am I allowed to tell Sasuke?" Her questions flew in and out of my ears, blurring until I couldn't recognize words, only general impressions.

"Slow down, Tori; guys can't think that fast," I said, closing my eyes as I walked through the street back to the noble district. We sped past the Uchiha compound and my own property, going directly to the Hyuuga compound. The man at the gate smiled, recognizing both of us and let us in.

We walked up the path towards the Main house. About to walk in the front door I stopped, hearing a shout behind us.

"Kaasan!" a voice shouted. Tori, in a well practiced movement, spun around and braced herself before she was tackled to the ground by two children.

"Why- did I have children?" she asked me, laughing breathlessly and pried Tera off of her mother, holding her up.

"I don't think you really planned them," I said, lifting Tera in my arms. Fugaku immediately shouted his complaints so I shifted Tera to one arm and held out my other to Itachi's son.

"Naruto-oniisan, I missed you," Tera exclaimed, hugging my arm tightly. I laughed easily.

"Tera-chan, Naruto is a big ninja. He's not going to be here to play with you all the time," Tori reminded her daughter. Tera looked up at her mother with wide obsidian eyes and Tori sighed, defeated once again by the infamously powerful puppy dog eyes. With Tera, it was almost as powerful as her father's Sharingan.

I had just put Fugaku and Tera down when I was tackled to the ground. Tori and her children laughed as they watched the breath get pushed from my lungs as Hina-chan sat up on my chest. Seeing her pale eyes smiling, blushing ever so slightly, I grinned.

"Hello to you too," I said, chuckling. "Are you comfortable because I'd rather not be like this when your father comes home," I pointed out. Hinata-chan jumped off my without another word, the blush increasing intensity.

"Um… Hello, Naruto-kun," she smiled shyly. I rolled my eyes.

"Do you want to go out for lunch? My treat," I offered. Tori's eyes laughed smugly as Hina-chan nodded. "Tori, don't you think you should take these two home?"

Tori almost growled at my dismissal but put on a cheerful face for her kids.

"Naruto's right; let's go home and get something to eat. Maybe we can play ninja," she suggested, distracting her children as Hina-chan and I slipped away. We had just reached the main gate when I ran into Hiashi.

"Oh, hello Hiashi-sama," I greeted. "I was just going to take Hina-chan out to lunch."

"All right," he said sounding a little suspicious. The man had warmed up to me after having me around so much, even more so after my promotion, but he still wasn't sure how to behave around me. "Don't be too long, Hinata. You're making good progress but you still have some training left," he said before nodding at his daughter and vanishing into the compound.

We walked to Ichiraku Ramen, our usual lunch date location. Spotting us, Teuchi smiled and put down a bowl of miso ramen for me and a bowl of pork ramen for Hinata-chan. I smiled at the man, saying hello.

"So, word on the street is that you two are-"

"Ixnay," I coughed loudly, smiling tensely. Teuchi took the hint and turned to his ramen.

"Naruto-kun, do you want to spar? I've been training the pack with Kiba," Hina-chan said, blowing on her ramen as I ignored the temperature. Hardly able to breathe, let alone speak, through the noodles, I nodded. Swallowing, I coughed.

"You're on," I accepted the challenge. She looked at me pointedly, sending her thoughts across the seal.

Mortal foxes only. I still haven't seen the fox council.

We'll do that soon.

"I'm being sent out on a solo mission soon. I might need a tracking team's help," I hinted. Hina-chan smiled, rolling her eyes.

"Who are you looking for?"

"Tsunade; I can't take that relationship around from Sakura," I explained, shrugging. Hina-chan smiled and looked at her ramen. I could tell from her thoughts that she was wondering how I'd propose this time around. I couldn't exactly recreate the first scene.

~Flashback~

Flames reflected on the water, the burning Akatsuki base fading from sight as it hid in the smoke. Turning to Hina-chan, I saw her breathing heavily, splattered with blood, and clearly exhausted. I'd never seen anything more beautiful.

"Marry me?" I said, still gazing at her. She looked at me, confusion then joy crossing her pale eyes. She nodded, her eyes watering. I wiped her tears as the base collapsed into the sea behind us.

~End Flashback~

That was completely spontaneous, I said, chuckling. Hina-chan closed her eyes, remembering our last wedding, the memory filling my own head as the connection strengthened.

It had been a small affair, being in the middle of a war, but nothing raises morale like a wedding. It was not a traditional wedding. I was not wearing the Hokage robes; Hina-chan was not wearing a white kimono. We both wore bloodstained jounin gear. Gaara had presided over the quick ceremony, just as I had for his and Matsuri's wedding weeks before.

There had been too much bloodshed for anyone to really cry but there were a long line of well-wishers and congratulators. Sakura was the only one to cry, remembering what she might have had with Sasuke.

Sitting now, eating ramen with Hina-chan, I smiled knowing that, this time, the wedding was going to be different if Tori had anything to do with it.


Our food paid for, Hina-chan and I ran to the Forest of Death, not racing but enjoying the speed and each other's company. Approaching my clearing, I paused, hearing someone there. I held a finger to my lips and signaled for Hinata to stay behind. She shook her head furiously and whipped out a kunai, twirling it dangerously. Sighing, defeated, I nodded and walked slowly closer to the clearing.

From my vantage point, I saw blue electricity envelope a certain raven haired boy's arm. I groaned, knowing I'd have to beat Kakashi up again. I ushered Hinata-chan forward and we walked into the clearing.

"Sasuke," I started pleasantly. My voice immediately darkened as I activated akuma no me. "Give me one reason I shouldn't Hiraishin to Kakashi and kill him where he stands?"

"Because he didn't teach it to me, I copied it," he said, turning around and showing me his own red eyes- two tomoe.

"When did you activate it?"

"I think I got it during that last spar in Wave. I came back to the bridge after you woke me up and could actually see all of you moving."

"Why didn't you tell me? I could've helped you strengthen it," I said, feeling a little hurt.

"Don't you remember that spar? You cracked my femur. I wasn't very happy at you," he scoffed. I nodded, conceding. Sasuke looked behind me, noticing Hina-chan. "Did you-"

"We were going to spar, but if you're here we can go somewhere else. It's a big forest," I said, my eyes moving back and forth. Sasuke's Sharingan picked up the movement and he nodded ever so slightly.

"No it's okay, this was always your clearing," he began, taking a step away.

"Yeah but this is the only clearing you know the way out of. I know a different spot, a few hundred yards east that'll work. Oh, if you hear explosions, don't freak out."

"Same to you," Sasuke said, nodding at his arm. I smiled sympathetic, remembering the damage learning Chidori had done to me. I stepped forward and applied a little medical ninjutsu to his wrist, strengthening the muscles and bone so they wouldn't get damaged easily. "Thanks," he said.

I was turning around when I saw a blue flash as Sasuke charged up his Chidori, rushing a tree. Just before he hit the tree, the electricity vanished. Sasuke jumped up onto the tree to avoid hitting it face first.

"Oi, Sasuke! Try to focus your chakra in your fingertips and knuckles; it makes the chakra easier to gather and stabilize," I suggested, forming a Chidori in my right hand, raising my hand so Sasuke could see. He studied my arm before nodding and turning back to his tree. He charged up his own arm and rushed the tree, the jutsu holding. With a crack, he pushed through the tree and it fell behind him. Hinata-chan nodded at the Uchiha, a small smile on her face.

"He's learning it quickly," she commented. I nodded and reached my hand out to her. She grabbed my hand tightly and we dashed into the trees, hand in hand.


This clearing was smaller than the other, only about twenty yards in diameter in a nearly perfect circle. The grass was dotted with small boulders and young trees, making the terrain more difficult for training. The ground was uneven and rocky, a good challenge for anyone who had come to spar.

I went through seals, summoning two mortal foxes to spar alongside me. Hinata-chan thought about who she should summon before flying through the seals and slamming her palm on the sparse grass.

A puff of smoke rose in front of each of us. I had summoned Koyuki and Domino. Domino was a large fox with pure black fur except for a circular patch of white over his left eye, inspiring his name. He nodded at me respectfully as Koyuki jumped to my shoulder.

"So what are we doing today?" she asked, her tail curling around my neck. I pointed at Hina-chan, now flanked by two foxes of her own. One was a smoke grey vixen with sky blue streaks running down her sides. The other was as dark as Domino; another vixen with piercing yellow eyes. Both glanced at Koyuki on my shoulder before resting their eyes on my whisker marks and bowing their heads simultaneously.

"Naruto-sama," each said quietly. I smiled.

"It's nice to meet you," I smiled, kneeling down to greet the foxes. The grey glanced at Hina-chan who nodded encouragingly before walking towards me. The black vixen stood glanced around herself before stepping towards me cautiously.

"My name is Yonaka," the black vixen announced. She glanced at the grey vixen at her side. "This is Haiiro."

"Yonaka-chan, I can introduce myself," she said nervously, reminding me of the old Hyuuga Hinata. "H-hello, Naruto-sama."

"Hello, Haiiro-chan, Yonaka-chan. Hinata-chan speaks highly of you two," I said, still smiling. The two vixens glanced at Hina-chan who simply shrugged.

"So what are we doing here?" Koyuki repeated, flicking her tail to get my attention. Hina-chan answered.

"I challenged Naruto-kun to a spar to show him how strong we are," she explained. Koyuki purred into my neck, analyzing the two vixens and my mate. Domino walked around Yonaka in a circle, studying her. I whistled and he stopped, watching me as I Shunshined to the other side of the clearing and waved to him. He jumped to join us and I began to lay down a strategy.


"Are you sure you want to do this, Hina-chan?" I called across the clearing. She scoffed as she and her summons shifted their weight, poised to attack. I nodded at her offensive pose and shifted into my warau akuma pose. Koyuki leaned back, ready to begin her ice assault. I pulled a scroll and tossed it to Domino, who opened the storage scroll. He glanced at the seals before picking his weapon of choice, a curved scimitar. He curled his tail around the hilt and took up a kunai in his mouth, nodding to me that he was ready.

Hinata looked impressed at Domino's control. She reached into her jacket, pulling out a scroll just as I had, handing it to Yonaka. Yonaka grinned as she unsealed metal claws that fit over her front paws perfectly. Even at this distance, I could see her flex her paw and grin at Domino, leaning forward as she prepared to pounce.

"Your count," I offered. She nodded.

"Three… Two-" She was interrupted by a flurry of movement, quickly approaching the clearing. Ignoring our current spar, I dashed in front of Hinata, Koyuki and Domino at my heels. I concentrated chakra to my fist and punched the ground, sending a jagged fault line towards the trees. The ninja saw the fissure and jumped to avoid it. I leapt towards him, a blur in the forest. Holding a kunai at his throat, I recognized the ninja.

"Kiba! What the hell are you doing here?" I shouted, removing the kunai from his neck. I grabbed him by the hood, Akamaru barking in protest, and dragged him to the clearing. Hinata looked just as surprised to see him.

"Watch it," he growled, feeling his throat before glancing at the gathered foxes. "You summon foxes too?" he asked me. Hinata nodded as I began to speak.

"I'm the holder of the contract. I was the one that let Hinata-chan sign it," I said. Koyuki jumped to my shoulder and I smiled. "I don't know if your mother told me who I really am. Did she tell you yet, Kiba?"

"She told me," he said, shrugging. "Teuchi-san told me you were going to spar. I didn't think he was talking about the Forest of Death… What are you doing here?"

"We were about to spar," Hinata-chan said, pointing at the battle ready foxes. I coughed.

"I think Kiba was asking why we weren't sparring in one of the other training grounds. This forest is infamously dangerous," I clarified. Turning to Kiba, I narrowed my eyes slightly. "Why are you here, Kiba? I'm here because I don't want to trash any of the grounds other people use. Sasuke's here learning an extremely dangerous jutsu, one of Kakashi's original. Hinata-chan is here to be my sparring partner and so I can show her the jutsu I've designed for foxes."

"You made-"

"Yes I did. I've been the holder of the contract for over four years, don't ask how I got it. Some of them are similar to Inuzuka jutsu but they are all a little different or my originals. You're avoiding the question. Why are you here?"

If I didn't know Kiba, I would've sworn he blushed. He began to mumble incoherently and I rolled my eyes. I turned to Domino and dismissed him, Koyuki staying on my shoulder. Hina-chan dismissed both of her summons before turning back to me.

"I guess sparring is out," she said. Kiba looked ready to either protest or apologize but I shrugged.

"It's okay, I still have Haku and Zabuza at my house. Do you two want to meet them? You'll be seeing them a lot; both are officially Konoha shinobi courtesy of the village council."

"Sure," Hinata-chan smiled brightly. "You still owe me a tour, you didn't get to show me around the compound last time I came over."

Kiba agreed grudgingly. I walked over to Hina-chan, offering her my hand. Kiba brightened when she shook her head, wanting to race. I glanced over at Kiba, much slower than either of us.

"How about we race back to Sasuke? We can see if he's done with the Chidori yet," I offered. Hinata-chan and Kiba both nodded and we all got ready to run.


Hinata-chan threw the race, getting last place while I kept up with Kiba, pulling ahead in the last few yards. Finding Sasuke passed out, I checked his vitals.

"He's okay," I decided. "He's chakra is pretty low. I'll let him heal from this the normal way. If I use the getaway technique to much, it won't be as effective when we need it," I explained, lifting Sasuke onto my back. His head rolled onto my shoulder, his eyes closed. Kiba nodded and the three of us ran back to the gates.

Like always, I jumped over it. Hinata-chan walked over to the gap and slipped through quietly for Kiba's sake. Kiba followed the Hyuuga through the fence and ran to catch up as Hinata-chan and I jogged slowly towards the village.

I led the two through the noble district, stopping at my gate. I deactivated the seal on the gates and walked in, leaving them unlocked behind me. I walked straight to Namikaze Manor, Kiba's jaw dropping as his eyes took in all three stories, mentally counting the rooms and the size of the grounds surrounding the house. I strode to the porch, kicking my front door open.

Kiba and Hina-chan followed me as I went straight to the primary living room. Opening the door, I saw Haku and Zabuza sitting on the sofa playing cards over the coffee table. I walked to the smaller loveseat and put Sasuke down gently before turning back to the former missing-nin.

"Guess how amazing I am," I challenged. Haku's eyes lit up with hope. Zabuza scoffed, telling me to cut it out. "Fine, don't apologize to the guy who just cleared your status as missing-nin, got you Konoha citizenship, and the chance to become Leaf shinobi," I said, chuckling. Kiba snickered as Haku flew over to me, tackling me in a hug so forcefully I almost lost my balance and fell backwards. Zabuza stood and lazily gave me a guy hug- an action much more dignified than actually hugging, no matter what Hinata-chan and Haku said.

"Anyway," I began, sitting next to Hinata-chan on the couch opposite Zabuza and Haku, leaving Kiba in the armchair. "You guys are invited to live in the Namikaze compound for as long as you want. You don't need to if you do want to- I'm sure you could find an apartment somewhere- but my door's always open to you guys," I offered. Haku smiled, a little more controlled now, and nodded excitedly. Zabuza pretended to think about it until Haku punched him in the ribs. Gasping for air, he agreed.

"Hello, Zabuza-san, Haku-chan," Hinata-chan said, holding out her hand. "I've heard so much about you two from Naruto-kun," she smiled, blushing slightly. Zabuza looked at her up and down before accepting her handshake.

"You must be Hyuuga Hinata," he said, noting her pale eyes. He leaned back comfortably while Hina-chan introduced herself to Haku. "Who are you?" he asked, looking at Kiba. I answered for him.

"This is Inuzuka Kiba. He is one of Hinata-chan's teammates. He helped her get her pack together while I was away from Konoha," I explained. Zabuza nodded once as Haku offered Kiba her hand with a friendly smile.

"So you guys are going to be Konoha nin? Do you know what rank?" Hinata asked, looking at me. I shrugged.

"They'll probably start Zabuza as a jounin and Haku as a high genin or low chuunin. Do you have a preference, Haku?"

"I think I'd rather start as genin," she said, thinking. I made a mental note to talk to Hiruzen while I turned to Kiba.

"I'm going to need your help Kiba," I said. He stared at me, confusion in his eyes.

"With what?" he asked suspiciously. I chuckled at his distrust in me.

"It's nothing bad, I swear. I've been meaning to throw a party but never really got around to it between training and the mission to Wave. I want you to tell everyone from our Academy class and their jounin sensei. We have a few things to celebrate properly," I said, smiling at Hinata-chan, something that did not go unnoticed by Kiba.

"Like what?"

"First, my promotion to jounin. We never had a party for that. Second, Team Seven's first C-rank mission, even though it did turn A-rank. Third, welcoming Haku and Zabuza into Konoha. Fourth, I really feel like throwing a party," I said, chuckling at the end. Kiba looked assuaged and nodded, accepting the task. "Thanks, I owe you one."

"Nah, I like partying," Kiba shook his head, not realizing what he was turning down. "Besides, if you invite people, no cute girls will show up." I raised an eyebrow.

"Did I mention the pool out back?" I asked, waving for them to follow me as I walked towards the back door. I opened the door nonchalantly, revealing the back yard. The back porch was small, just enough space for a table and a few chairs before the stairs connected it to the patio. The patio was red brick dotted with blue green slate slabs. There were a few tables lined against one side of the patio, leaving open space in the center. Opposite the porch, a huge pool was laid in the ground, a built in Jacuzzi making its home in one corner of the pool. I watched, grinning, as Kiba's jaw hit the ground and his eyes widened in surprise. Hinata-chan didn't freak out, she skipped forward, Koyuki jumping off of my shoulder after her.

My mate touched the water with one hand, testing the temperature before taking off her shoes and putting her feet in the water. Kiba recovered as I stood next to him, both of us watching Hinata-chan get into a water war with my favorite mortal fox.

"What was that about no girls showing up?" I said, lightly smacking Kiba's shoulder. He didn't move, only watched Hina-chan as she laughed, almost pushed into the water by Koyuki. Koyuki grinned and shook her fur, spraying Hinata-chan.

"Okay," Kiba eventually coughed. "I was wrong. You need to have a party. When are you thinking?"

"Tonight or tomorrow night. Everyone's in Konoha for the next few days," I smiled, turning away from Hinata-chan and stepping just inside the house. I grabbed two towel from one of the closets and brought both down to the patio, draping them over a chair for Hinata-chan and Koyuki when they were finished.

"Thanks, Naruto-kun," my mate laughed over her shoulder, catching a glimpse of me as she tried to defend herself from Koyuki.

"No problem. We're going back to the living room," I called back, grabbing Kiba and pushing him through the door, ignoring his protests. "Come on, Kiba, don't make me hurt you," I growled teasingly. Kiba scoffed but let me push him back to Zabuza and Haku. I heard Zabuza shout and I sighed, knowing what to expect when we entered the room. Kiba's head shot up at the sound.

"Shouldn't we hurry up?"

"Nah, that was just Haku teaching Zabuza some manners or something like that," I shrugged, opening the door. As I expected, Haku stood over Zabuza, senbon in hand and a foot on his chest, keeping him down. "Okay, Haku; don't kill him. What did he do this time?"

"What makes you think I did anything?" Zabuza shouted, indignant. I raised my eyebrow and he scoffed. "She started it."

"And she ended it," Kiba chuckled nervously noticing the senbon in Haku's hand.

"Didn't I make some house rules before I left you two here?" I asked tiredly. Haku smirked, her hand not falling.

"Yes. You said no jutsu, swordfights, or training inside or around the house. You never said anything about senbon," she said, narrowing her eyes at the Demon of the Bloody Mist.

"Okay, new rule," I announced. "No senbon, ice senbon, or poison inside or around my house. Better?" I asked, not sure who I was talking to. Haku sighed before taking her foot off of the man, pocketing her senbon. "Thank you."

Just as I finished telling Haku why she shouldn't try to kill Zabuza, Hinata-chan walked in, her clothes soaked and her face bright red. Koyuki was walking next to her, her fur still damp.

"We kinda fell in…" Hina-chan said sheepishly, making me laugh. Kiba glared at me, probably for making him miss that. I almost glared at myself.

"That's okay, I think some of my mom's old stuff will fit you," I said, still laughing. Hina-chan smiled shyly and I grabbed her wrist, leading her into my bedroom closet. I hadn't yet gotten around to cleaning it out yet so most of the clothes were just sealed into scrolls so I could fit my stuff inside. I looked through the scrolls, finding one of my mother's clothing that I recognized. "I'm pretty sure something in there will fit. We'll leave so you can change," I said, once again pulling Kiba away.

We were sitting on the couches, just talking, when Hina-chan came back. Her old outfit gone, she now wore a deep red kimono with white sakura petals embroidered close to the hem. Her dark hair was tied into a ponytail, still wet. I smiled and nodded, catching Kiba's attention. He took one look at her and fell back with a nosebleed. It was only then I noticed that the kimono was not exactly up to her neck like most Hyuuga robes. I laughed in the Inuzuka's expense before smiling at Hina-chan.

"You look beautiful," I said, trying to keep my twelve year old vocal chords from cracking. Hina-chan blushed slightly and smiled, walking over to me. She glanced at Kiba.

"Kiba," she sighed tiredly. "He just doesn't know when to quit. I already told him to back off."

"Hina-chan, guys are idiots. They either are oblivious or don't care what the girl thinks. Kiba falls into the second category," I hinted, glancing at the genin. I groaned- he was getting blood on the white couch he had fallen onto. "If that stains, I'm going to hurt him."

"It's not his fault he's a stupid, perverted, stubborn, … What were we talking about?" Hina-chan asked, chuckling as she moved the Inuzuka so he wasn't bleeding on my furniture. I sighed.

"How am I going to explain your clothes when I take you to your father?" I asked, knowing how Hiashi would respond, even if we were engaged to be engaged.

"The truth? We didn't do anything wrong," she shrugged.

"Yes, I left you with a fox beside a pool. Hiashi will believe that," I said, rolling my eyes. Hinata-chan shrugged.

"Take Koyuki with you. Konoha needs to get used to foxes again; a mortal fox is the best way to start," she reasoned. I thought about it and nodded, looking at the fox.

"You're doing all the talking. I was inside with Kiba," I reminded her. She pouted but nodded, paying me back by jumping onto my shoulder, still wet. "Very mature. Okay, let's get you and Kiba home," I said, picking up the unconscious ninja as Hinata-chan said goodbye to Zabuza and hugged Haku.

"I'll see you later," she promised. Haku smiled; Zabuza grumbled a reply, standing and heading towards the kitchen. Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I opened the front door for Hina-chan and she smiled as she stepped through the doorway. I closed the door behind me, the latch clicking almost inaudibly as the door shut.

We walked side by side and hand in hand as we walked the now familiar path back to society, leaving the silence behind as I closed the outer gate, entering the busy street.

We dropped Kiba off, neglecting the exact details of why he was unconscious. Tsume glared at me when I mentioned the party but allowed Kiba to come. Getting the door nearly slammed in my face, I turned away from the house, meeting Hinata-chan in the front lawn. I didn't say a word about Tsume's behavior, not wanting Hinata-chan to turn around and beat up the Inuzuka clan head.

Passing the Hyuuga gate, the woman at guard looked at Hina-chan's kimono, the vibrant color looking out of place in the pale color scheme of the Hyuuga compound. Ignoring the occasional stares, we made our way to the main house, Koyuki on my shoulder. I was about to knock on the door when Hinata-chan stepped in front of me, opening the door and ushering me inside. I spotted Hiashi walking down the hallway towards us and I signaled Hinata. She nodded and started talking.

"That's good; Father says my training is almost done," she began, alerting me to the topic we were supposed to be continuing. I glanced down the hall again.

"Hiashi-sama, there you are," I smiled, bowing my head. "I'm sorry we took so long, we ran into one of Hinata-chan's teammates who wanted to hang out with us so we all went back to my house," I said, smiling sheepishly. Hiashi narrowed his eyes at Hina-chan's dress, ready to comment before Hinata-chan cut in.

"Naruto-kun is having a party to celebrate his promotion and Team Seven's first C-rank mission. Can I go?" she asked, her pale eyes wide and begging. Hiashi must have been stubborn about her clothing, not even her expression- one that Kyuubi referred to as her vixen eyes- could distract him.

"What happened to your clothes?" He asked. I could tell he was trying not to narrow his eyes at me. Hinata-chan's face reddened.

"I fell in the pool," she said sheepishly. Hiashi's eyebrows raised in disbelief and Koyuki elaborated.

"I apologize, Hiashi-sama. It was my fault that your daughter fell into the pool," she said clearly. Hiashi, despite his status as clan head of the elite Hyuuga clan, jumped at the talking fox.

"It wasn't your fault, Koyuki-chan," Hina-chan protested. "You fell in too."

"But you can't shake yourself dry," Koyuki pointed out before turning to Hiashi. "It was my fault, please do blame Naruto-sama or Hinata-sama. Naruto was a gentlemen, lending Hinata-sama his mother's kimono while her clothes dry."

Hiashi looked at his daughter, who nodded, before turning to me and sighing. He shook his head tiredly and looked at me.

"Hinata, go to your room. Naruto, follow me. And bring that fox," he added as an afterthought. Koyuki fumed silently at being referred to as 'that fox'. Hinata-chan bowed her head, her thoughts laughing with mine. I nodded and Hiashi led the way to a small library. He sat in a chair and folded his hands in his lap, motioning for me to take the chair opposite him. "Naruto. I trust I'm correct in thinking that you wish my daughter no harm, but you must act with her reputation in mind. Personally, she can behave as she wants when she bears your name. Until that happy event, you must remember that each and every thing she does reflects on the Hyuuga name. She is the eldest child of the Main house, she must act as such. I can't have her coming home wearing someone else's clothing, no matter how honorably it was received. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly, sir. I did not lend her my mother's kimono to damage her reputation. Under the circumstances, I thought it best to return her to you before it got dark, especially since you had mentioned training her further," I said, trying not to be disrespectful to my future father in law.

"You seem to be rather interested in her training; may I ask why?" he asked. I shrugged my shoulders, smiling minutely.

"I'm not going to lie: I am not well liked in this world. If those I am close to are strong, they are better suited to defend themselves against those who want to harm me through them. If your daughter is able to protect herself, I'm sure that both you and I will sleep better at night. Also, our wedding will not be until she is a chuunin, as we agreed. If Hinata-chan grows stronger, that happy event, as you put it, will be sooner rather than later."

My words seemed to be chosen well; Hiashi smiled slightly and stood from his chair. I leapt to my feet and walked, half a step behind him, towards the front door. Nodding at me, he said his goodbyes, vanishing into the house before I could return the courtesy.

Not sure what to do, I began to walk back to my house, the Hyuuga compound and its residents disappearing behind me.

Chapter Text

I smiled, watching my party become a success. The entire Rookie Nine, their jounin sensei, and a number of other people were in attendance. The lights reflected off the pool, dancing happily in the waves created by various people swimming and jumping in. The music was loud enough to dance, quiet enough to talk over. I chuckled as I watched Konohamaru get punched by Moegi. For what, I didn't know. All I knew was that he probably deserved it, especially by her standards.

Chouji was standing close to the tables, all loaded with different types of food. Ino was shouting as she was lifted by Kiba and dumped into the pool. Kiba laughed as Ino swam to the surface, flicking her long hair out of her face. He stopped laughed when she grabbed his ankle and pulled him in.

Shikamaru stood to the side with Zabuza, neither wanting to be their but forced. Haku was laughing, dancing with Sakura and Tori. Sasuke was laughing with Kakashi, just telling him that he had recreated the Chidori. Even Shino was talking, chatting with one of the random chuunin. The party had a number of crashers but I didn't mind. The more the merrier, right? A party was no place to start complaining about the number of people.

Glancing around the party, I realized a few things were missing. It wasn't the same without Gaara, Temari, or Kankuro. They deserve to be here, I decided, about to Hiraishin to Gaara's kunai when I felt a tap on my shoulder. The scent of lavender floated into my head and I smiled, turning to face Hinata-chan.

I'm not going to lie: my jaw dropped for just a few seconds. My eyes took in the lavender dress, coming to just below her knees, something very controversial within the Hyuuga clan. Even more impressive, I spotted a bathing suit strap hiding under the dress's halter straps. Hina-chan had her hair down, the bangs framing her face curled. Her blood steel necklace glinted in the light emanating softly from the lanterns. I glanced at my own attire, a simple black shirt, my normal Sage jacket, and some dark jeans, and felt underdressed.

"You look nice, too," she chuckled, filling the silence my staring had created. She grabbed my hand and stood next to me, watching the patio from our vantage point on the second floor balcony. "What are you doing up here by yourself? We're all here to celebrate your accomplishments."

"Nah, Chouji's here for the food," I said, chuckling. "Zabuza is here because Haku made him come, Shikamaru is here because Ino made him come, and Asuma is here because Kurenai made him come. Kiba's here because you, Ino, and Sakura are here. Shino is here because he didn't have to do anything else," I said, pointing at each guest and explaining why they'd come. At the end of my speech, Hina-chan hugged my arm.

"I'm here to celebrate your accomplishments," she said in my ear. I smiled and pulled an arm around her. She seemed to think about something before looking up sadly. "It doesn't feel right without the Sand Siblings here."

"I was just thinking about that. I was actually about to Hiraishin to Suna and get them, I left a kunai with Gaara and Sandstorm," I said. Hinata-chan's eyes brightened and her thoughtful expression morphed into a carefree smile.

"Well? Get going," she said, pushing me playfully. I chuckled and closed my eyes obediently, following my kunai to Suna. I opened my eyes to see Gaara talking to a mortal raccoon on a sand dune somewhere outside of Suna. Feeling my chakra, he glanced up and his face broke into a smile.

"Taicho," he greeted, dismissing his summon and walking to give me a hug. "Why are you here? Did something happen in-"

"No, nothing happened," I chuckled. "Do I need an excuse to visit my favorite student? Never mind, don't answer that. Are Temari, Sandstorm, and Kankuro around?"

"Yeah, they should all be at my place. What's up?"

"Party in Konoha," I winked. "The Rookie Nine is celebrating my becoming jounin and two new additions to the shinobi force: Yuki Haku and Momochi Zabuza."

"You got them away from Gatou in time?" Gaara asked excitedly, fighting a blush as he thought about Haku. I nodded happily.

"They're living in the Namikaze compound with me. I'll catch you up later, take me to Temari and Kankuro," I promised. Gaara nodded and led me into the village, bypassing the guards and taking me directly to his house. Approaching the building, I could hear two people fighting and I smiled to myself, remembering how the three sand siblings never quite got along unless someone was in danger.

"Temari-oneechan, Kankuro-oniisan, I'm home!" he called. Temari shouted a greeting from the kitchen. I smiled and held a finger to my lips, wanting to surprise the kunoichi. I stepped into the doorway, ready to repeat my familiar greeting.

"Sabaku no Temari, short as ever," I said. Temari jumped and tackled me in a hug, laughing. Kankuro looked a little less entertained by my sudden appearance.

"Calm down, Kankuro, this is Kiiroi Kitsune, Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto, Gaara's sensei?" she ran off a list of my identities; only the last sticking. He smiled and offered his hand.

"Sabaku no Kankuro, kick ass puppeteer," he introduced himself. I nodded, shaking his hand.

"I know. Listen, the four of you are coming back with me to a party. It feels really empty without you guys, Konoha genin do not know how to party," I added, knowing that it would encourage Kankuro. He looked a little confused but nodded. Without my saying a word, Sandstorm shifted into her human form and walked over to me. Temari, Gaara, and Sandstorm all grabbed onto me, looking pointedly at Kankuro.

"What?" he asked, oblivious. Temari rolled her eyes.

"Hiraishin time. Grab onto me and I came take you to Konoha in less than a second. Just hold on really tightly and don't let go until I say you can," I ordered. Kankuro looked a little skeptical but grabbed onto me. I closed my eyes, focusing on Hinata-chan's necklace. I pushed the five of us through, adding more chakra to make sure we stayed together and in one piece. I opened my eyes to the balcony as Hina-chan put her necklace back on. I chuckled as Temari and Kankuro stumbled, probably disoriented by having their eyes open during the jump.

"Okay, first things first," I said as soon as Temari and Kankuro's eyes focused again. "Everyone take off your Suna Hitai-ates, nobody knows I brought you here. Gaara, you can put on your Araiguma mask if you don't want anyone to know who you really are. I haven't given away your identity. Second, everyone meet Hyuuga Hinata, my mate. You can trust Hinata-chan, she knows everything about me and hasn't told anyone but her summons who, not so coincidentally, are also foxes so it doesn't really matter."

Temari and Kankuro untied their Suna Hitai-ates as Gaara unsealed his mask, looking at it. After a while, he resealed the mask.

"Are you sure? You can't undo this," I warned him. He nodded and untied the Hitai-ate he now wore around his neck.

"I'm sure," he said, sealing the forehead protector in with his mask. "The higher ups of Suna know who I am. I'm sure most of Konoha knows your identity, Kiiroi Kitsune. I'm sure they won't mind playing host to your student for a night," he said, his eyes searching for Haku, still dancing.

"If you're sure. Kankuro, Temari, Sandstorm; if anyone asks who you are, just say that you're an old friend of Kiiroi Kitsune. They won't do anything as long as you don't try to kill anyone," I smiled, leading the way to the patio.

The sand siblings invaded the party easily, no one really bothering them as they partied alongside the Konoha 11 plus Sasuke. Dancing with Hinata-chan, I realized I was about to ruin Tori's plans. I pulled Hina-chan away from the crowd, only laughing when she asked me where we were going, something I didn't even know.


We lay down in the grass of one of the training fields, watching the stars in the cold night air. Hinata-chan was next to me, wearing my coat over her dress and smiling at the moon.

"It's so beautiful," Hinata-chan whispered, staring at the sky as a comet raced towards the horizon. Still gazing at my mate, I found myself wondering which star I should steal out of the sky, just to make her happy. She suddenly turned to face me, smiling. "I don't need a star to be happy. Not as long as you're with me," she smiled, staring into my blue eyes with her lavender.

Not knowing what I could say, I sat up and leaned down until our lips met. All too soon, I needed to break for air. Sitting up, I smiled softly at my Hinata.

"I love you," I said, not for the last time.

"I love you too, Naruto-kun," she said, moving so that her head was lying in my lap. I brushed her hair away from her face and melted as I saw Hina-chan's face light up with a contented smile. It was more than content, it was peaceful, joy.

"Marry me?" She smiled and sat up, pulling me into a tight hug. When she pulled back, she met my eyes and a single tear rolled down her pale cheeks.

"Always and everywhere," she repeated our promise. I smiled and brushed her tear away before leaning in for another kiss.

Chapter Text

Coming back into the party, I saw Tori narrow her eyes and she saw Hina-chan's slightly red eyes and blissful smile. I winced, remembering that she had staked a claim on her part of our wedding. Separating myself from Hinata-chan for just a moment, I ran into the house and into my bedroom. In the bedside table drawer sat a small black box with a note from my mother. I opened the box and took my mother's wedding ring out of the velvet bed before dashing out to find Hina-chan before Tori attacked her.

The ring itself was simple and elegant, not exaggerated but not boring. The band was silver with small waves etched across the surface. The face of the ring was a medium sized diamond surrounded by smaller sapphires. After I had found the ring, I took it to one of Konoha's jewelers to make a few changes. There was now a lavender amethyst every other sapphire surrounding the diamond. On the inside of the band, I had the words Always and Everywhere inscribed into the silver.

I found Hina-chan talking to Temari, the Suna kunoichi hugging her happily. I appeared behind Hinata-chan and tapped her shoulder, clearing my throat. I was tackled by two giggling kunoichi. Kakashi, the closest person to us, chuckled to himself. In the flurry of movement, I seized Hina-chan's left hand and slid the ring onto her finger, struggling to breath.

"Thought… you might… want the ring… before you… suffocate me," I gasped out. Temari and Hina-chan jumped off of me, the latter blushing while the former grabbed her left wrist, twisting it so she could see the ring. I coughed, sitting up so I could breathe without doing any more damage to my ribcage.

"It's beautiful," Temari said breathlessly. Hina-chan's face broke into a new smile as her eyes took in the ring that was now hers. I stood and walked closer to Hina-chan, hugging her waist.

"It was my mother's'," I said, my eyes resting on the ring before moving to my mate's happy smile. "I changed a little bit, adding the amethysts and the inscription on the inside, but everything else is the same." When I mentioned the inscription, Hina-chan slid the ring off of her finger, studying the inside in the light.

"Always and Everywhere," she read, sharing a smile with me while Temari looked a little confused. Hinata-chan smiled at her expression, sliding the ring back onto her finger. "Always and everywhere… That was what we promised to each other. That's how I said yes," she explained. Temari cooed, smiling at us just as Tori marched up behind her.

"Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto," she growled. "Give me a reason why I shouldn't kill you right now?"

"Because that would mean the wedding's off?" I said nervously. Tori followed Temari's gaze and found the ring before she went through a complete transformation: extremely dangerous and angry psychopath to equally dangerous giggling teenager. I slipped away, desperate for a little quieter atmosphere. I found myself in the quietest spot, next the Shikamaru and Zabuza. Shikamaru glanced at the girls I had left behind and sighed.

"Troublesome," he muttered. "What did you do to get them like that?" he asked me, watching the girls laugh. His personality shining through, Kiba glanced up and started walking towards the three excited kunoichi, wondering what had happened and if he could use it to his advantage.

"You'll hear when Kiba finds out. He won't be very happy," I said, hiding deeper in the shadows as Haku, Sakura, and Ino walked towards the sphere of insanity and joy that seemed to emanate from the ring on Hinata-chan's finger.

I grabbed a cup of punch and almost drank it before noticing the smell and pouring it out. Walking back to Zabuza, I sighed a little angrily.

"Do you know who spiked the punch? It smells like sake," I said. Zabuza shook his head and Shikamaru glanced at the cup in his hand before pouring the drink into the bushes. All three of us, as well as the rest of the party, cringed when Kiba started yelling.

"Naruto! I am going to kill you!" he growled, stalking towards me. I sighed and glanced sideways at Hinata-chan, shrugging apologetically. Shikamaru glanced at me, his eyebrows raised.

"What'd you do?" he asked as Kiba came closer.

"I, uh, might've proposed…" Asuma's cigarette fell out of his mouth.

"To?" Kurenai asked, watching her student clench his fists.

"Hinata-chan?" I said a little nervously. Kurenai's face went from anxious to happiness and she walked towards Hina-chan, asking to see the ring. I sighed in disbelief. "Her student is coming over her to rip my head off and she wants to see the ring? What is it with women that make them so…"

"Troublesome?" Shikamaru offered. I nodded and Kiba stopped in front of me, fuming.

"You have three seconds to convince why I shouldn't kill you," he growled. I shook my head and sighed.

"Because I'm a twelve year old jounin. You can't-" I was interrupted by a kunai scratching my cheek. Kiba smiled evilly.

"Five seconds are up," he snarled. I sighed and sent out a pulse of killing intent towards the Inuzuka. He collapsed. The rest of the party looked at me, questions in their eyes, and I knelt at the Inuzuka, checking his pulse.

"He's fine," I reported. "Killing intent. Picked up this trick back in Kumo. I'll take him inside," I volunteered. I picked him up and carried Kiba to the living room, placing him on the couch. I put a blanket over him and poured a glass of water, leaving it on the coffee table for him once he woke up. I came back out and sighed; nobody had moved.

Can you do something? I asked Hina-chan through our seal. She shook her head.

All I can do is announce the-

Do it. It'll distract the kunoichi. I can handle the guys.

Okay, then. You brought this on yourself, she pressed, glancing at her left hand.

"So, Tori," she began loudly. "You said you wanted to help plan my and Naruto-kun's wedding?" she asked loudly, pointing to her left hand. Tori's eyes widened and she smiled, tackling my mate in a hug as all of the girls raced towards Hinata-chan, all wanting to see the ring. I shook my head and turned to the guys and said two words that were sure to get everyone's attention.

"Bachelor party," I said, smiling quietly. It worked; all the guys, even Shikamaru, walked over to me and started throwing around ideas. If Kiba had been awake, and not wanting to kill me, I'm sure he would've made a number of suggestions.

The party didn't last much longer after Kiba's would-be attack. When people began to leave, I smiled as I watched Sasuke follow Sakura away. Shino was one of the first to leave, offering to take Kiba home. After a quick Hiraishin, the sand siblings were all safely returned, none the wiser. The shinobi all left in ones and twos until I sat in my living room with Kakashi, Zabuza, and Haku.

"Married already? You're making me feel old," Kakashi complained. I shrugged.

"You still have time, Kakashi. I'm sure Shizune would be willing to pick off where you left off," I winked. The Copy Nin chuckled, shaking his head.

"If it happens, it happens. Besides, I thought we put that in the 'never talk about ever again' part of our brains? I could always talk about the time you kissed-"

"I agree, 'never talk about ever again'…" I said loudly, overpowering the rest of his sentence. "Besides, Hiashi and I agreed that the wedding would be postponed until Hinata-chan becomes a chuunin. She's sticking to plan more than I am so that means Chuunin Exams."

"They're coming up," Kakashi reminded me. I nodded, smiling.

"I know that, Kakashi. I was appointed a jounin sensei. And, unlike you, I actually go to the jounin meetings every week. Hiruzen is lucky if you go once or twice a year."

"I'm busy," Kakashi said, shrugging. I scoffed and Zabuza rolled his eyes. I glanced at Haku, already asleep on the couch. I shushed Kakashi and pointed to her, a finger on my lips.

I lifted her gently, trying to not wake the kunoichi. I carried her into the room that she had claimed as her own. When Haku was safe and asleep, Zabuza left for his own room on the second floor.

Kakashi left for his own apartment soon after, leaving me in the silence of the Namikaze house. Instead of going to sleep- I was wide awake- I created a dozen shadow clones and went down to the Namikaze records, learning the clan history.

The Namikaze were an old clan, related to the Senju clan. The Sage of Six Paths had two sons, naming his younger son his successor on his deathbed. The older son, who craved power for the sake of having power, felt embittered and his descendants became the Uchiha clan. The younger son, whose ideals centered on gaining power to protect and love, had two sons, just like his father. The older son became the next head of the Senju clan while the younger branched off and became the founder of the Namikaze clan. The two clans stayed allied with each other, sharing ideals and morals.

When Konoha was founded, the Namikaze acted as the bridge between the Uchiha and the Senju. Despite their ties and past allegiances, the Namikaze tried to stay as open minded as possible, a trait that helped them to befriend the Uchiha.

After the founding of Konoha, something strange happened to the Namikaze clan. Due to some unknown cause, it became increasingly rare for Namikaze women to bear sons. Without men to carry on the name, the Namikaze name dwindled down to a small number. There were still Namikaze by blood, from the mother's side, but they weren't recognized by name.

By the time Kyuubi attacked Konoha twelve years ago, my father was the last true Namikaze in both name and blood.

Eventually, I left the scrolls and the clan records, stumbling to my bedroom and collapsed on my bed, the day's events finally catching up to me. I smiled, remembering Hinata-chan's eyes in the starlight and fell asleep, the smile never leaving my face.

Chapter Text

My life was a blur of events and memories, all leading up to the Chuunin exams. D-rank, D-rank, D-rank, D-rank… Mission, mission, mission, mission. Training, training, training, training. Some more D-ranked missions and I'd repeat the cycle.

Eventually, I gave Sasuke and Sakura the forms to enter the Chuunin Exams, smiling proudly at each of them. I had grown a little; not much, but enough to make me taller than Sakura at least.

"What are- Chuunin Exams?" Sakura asked excitedly, glancing down the form.

"Yep. I pulled a few strings. Usually only three genin teams can enter the exams so you are getting a new teammate for the course of the exams," I said, smiling when Sasuke asked who their new teammate was. "Yuki Haku."

"Awesome!" Sakura cheered. Sasuke nodded, as happy as he could get without exploding from the pressure: he gave a genuine smile. I chuckled as Sakura pretended to cough, covering her sharp intake of breath as she saw happiness cross the Uchiha's face.

"Take the day off," I ordered. "You've been training really hard the past few weeks. If you want to enter the exams, you need to get a signature from a parent or guardian. If you are taking the exams, hand me that paper, signed, by the end of the week. Don't give it to Kakashi, he'll probably lose it," I said, ignoring their chuckles as I tried to remember anything I'd forgotten.

"I think that's it… If you have any questions, talk to me or Kakashi. Also, I recommend you start learning your way around the Forest of Death," I hinted. Sasuke nodded, a little confusion in his dark eyes overshadowed by determination and acceptance. Sakura, seeing Sasuke's eyes, nodded slowly.

"Ja ne," I said, waving before closing my eyes and Hiraishining to my kitchen. I opened my eyes and found Zabuza at the fridge, a carton of milk at his mouth. "Really, Zabuza? You aren't the only person in this house to drink me," I complained.

Zabuza put the lid back onto the milk and put it back in the fridge, shrugging. "What are you doing home? Don't you have to chase a cat around or something?"

"Nope, Tora has other genin teams to terrorize. Team Ten is really starting to hate that cat," I chuckled, taking the milk out of the fridge and pouring it down the sink, ignoring Zabuza's protests. "There are glasses in that cabinet. If you want milk, pour some into a glass. Don't drink from the carton, it's gross."

"Whatever. Where's your team?"

"Kakashi is probably reading Icha Icha Paradise. I think Sasuke and Sakura are going to explore the Forty-fourth Training Ground."

"The Forest of Death?" Haku asked, appearing in the doorway. I nodded and she pursed her lips. "Can you help me find them in there?"

"No problem," I nodded before glancing at Zabuza. "I'll pick up milk on the way home."

"We're out of-" Haku was cut off when I pushed her out of the door. She rolled her eyes and we started running towards the Forest of Death, leading the way as I slowed down so that Haku could keep up.

I jumped over the fence again, about to point out the hole in the fence when Haku ran up a tree near the fence and jumped over and onto another tree. I smiled and jumped to join her in the trees, activating demon eyes. I stared into the forest, searching for their chakra signatures. Finally, I found them close to the tower. I was about to run towards them when I realized how close they were to each other. I felt like an intruder as I watched Sasuke lean in to kiss Sakura.

I pulled the chakra away from my eyes, the color drifting back to blue as I sat down on the tree limb.

"We should probably stay here a while," I hinted. Haku's face broken into a grin.

"Did he-"

"Yep. I don't think we should disturb them."

If Haku had an inner Haku, she was cheering for her new best friend. After a while, I reactivated my dojutsu so I could see if they were done.

Finally. I nodded to Haku and we both stood, stretching. Without a word, I led her to her two new teammates.

When we got to the tower, I noticed Sasuke and Sakura sitting down on the grass, talking. I grimaced, not wanting to interrupt what was obviously flirting between the two genin. Haku spared me, announcing our presence.

"There you are," she called from the trees, jumping down to meet them. Both jumped and Haku pretended not to notice. I followed her out of the trees, fighting a grin.

"We've been looking everywhere for you guys. Haku wanted to get some training in. I thought you three against me for the bells again would help get your skills in line with everyone else's." Sakura nodded, blushing slightly. Sasuke didn't nod, a smile growing on his face. I mentally smirked.

"Can we go back to our training ground? This place gives me the creeps," Sakura shivered. Sasuke threw her a confident smile. I smiled; if there was any arrogance in his expression, it was overshadowed by the reassuring comfort.

"We aren't going back to our normal training ground. We're going to one of the Namikaze fields that I set up just for your three," I answered. "Grab on, I put a seal in the middle of the training ground," I said, holding out my arm. The three genin, Haku included, held onto my arm, closing their eyes. I closed my own eyes and focused on the Hiraishin kunai I had sent into the small woods dotting the Namikaze grounds.

"Before we begin," I said, stepping away and taking a scroll out of my vest. "Sasuke, I'd like to give you this," I said, unsealing Kamisora. "This is Kamisora, my first blade," I said, holding the hilt towards him. He grasped the cloth covered ebony and took the sword, drawing it out of its sheath before looking at me.

"Why are you giving me this?" he asked, testing the sword's weight in his hand.

"I've noticed that, the more surprises you have up your sleeve, the more battles you win. Learning jutsu is just one part of being a ninja; versatility is just as, if not more, important. I learned kenjutsu for the situations where I was against a strong opponent; chakra gets depleted, a katana does not," I shrugged. Sasuke studied the blade before nodding, attaching the sheath to his belt. "When you are ready to learn, go to either myself, Zabuza, or a tokubetsu jounin named Gekkou Hayate."

"Hai," he nodded, sheathing the katana in a fluid motion. I nodded, smiling at the three genin.

"Begin," I said calmly, Shunshining into the trees.

"Doton: Shinju Zanshu no Jutsu!" Sakura shouted, panting as the battle wore on. I was playing defense, letting the three wear themselves out until I decided they were ready. I let Sakura pull me into the ground, wanting to see the follow up attack. Instead of Sakura going through seals, she jumped away from me. I glanced behind me and saw Sasuke sprinting towards me, his arm sparking with a Chidori. I closed my eyes and Hiraishined to one of my kunai scattered in the woods.

"Hyoton: Fokkusu Torappu!" Haku shouted close by me. I rolled my eyes at the name as ice began to creep up my legs, freezing me to the tree limb.

"Fox trap? Really?" I shouted, focusing demonic chakra to my legs to shatter the ice. My face fell into a frown as the demonic chakra seemed to feed the ice. "Okay, demon chakra is good for it… How about nature chakra?" I said to myself, closing my eyes and concentrating on the forest around me. Seeing the chakra, I began to pull it into myself, focusing it at my legs.

The ice shattered, just in time. I bent backwards to avoid Haku's ice senbon. I swallowed as they hit the tree trunk behind me. Haku was aiming to kill.

"How did you do that? That jutsu is supposed to be inescapable," Haku asked, narrowing her usually friendly eyes.

"It would have been if I were any other person. I'm trained in senjutsu, meaning I can see, absorb, and manipulate nature chakra if I'm still," I explained, remembering my battle with Preta Pain, the path who had the ability to absorb chakra and ninjutsu attacks.

I felt the forest shift, sliding away from me. I smiled as the woods blackened and the shadows leapt at me. I closed my eyes and briefly cut off my chakra, breaking myself out of the genjutsu.

"Good job, Sakura. You're making progress," I commented, nodding at the kunoichi. "Next time, let the target populate the genjutsu. They'll subconsciously think of things they're afraid of and it will slip into the genjutsu."

Sakura nodded at me before jumping towards me, her hand glowing with chakra. I leapt away as the tree branch shattered under her fist. She met my eyes with determination and I activated demon eyes, giving her a vulpine grin as she landed onto one of the lower branches.

Sasuke Shunshined in front of her, Haku to her right. Haku lifted her hand, revealing a handful of senbon as Sasuke and Sakura each drew a kunai. Sasuke glanced at the two kunoichi, nodding once.

The two kunoichi jumped away in opposite directions as Sasuke rushed me. Realizing what they were doing, I jumped, dropping down towards the ground quickly, dragged by my weights.

Haku and Sakura nearly collided where I had been seconds earlier. Somersaulting, Sakura landed in a crouch on the branch, Haku skidding to a halt. Sasuke jumped down to meet me at the ground.

He started a taijutsu match, something he should have thought better of. I wasn't using the warau akuma, I used a variant of the gentle fist, relying on my demon eyes to keep track of Sasuke's chakra network.

"Hijutsu: Makyou Hyoushou," I heard Haku mutter as Sasuke jumped away from me. Twenty one mirror materialized and circled around me, forming a dome. My hands were about to form seals when I heard something I hadn't expected.

"Doton: Doro Domu!" Sakura shouted, holding her open palm open towards Haku's mirrors. A wall of earth rose around me, closing at the top to form a dome. My eyes narrowed; Haku's mirrors weren't a problem but Sakura's dome could do a lot of damage. Remembering one of the techniques abilities, I raised my voice, trying to keep the panic out.

"Sakura! Don't take my chakra! If you get any of Kyuubi's your body will attack it!" I shouted through the wall, already dodging Haku's senbon. I sighed, not wanting to destroy both layers at once. If I destroyed them at the same time, Haku wouldn't have a chance to escape without injury. "Haku, I'm breaking out of here. Come next to me so I don't hurt you," I said seriously, closing my eyes.

Haku studied me, thinking I was trying to trick her. I opened an eye.

"Fine, don't let me break out of here the fun way," I chuckled, pouting. I rolled my eyes, focusing on one of the Hiraishin seals outside of the domes of ice and earth. I opened my eyes to a trap.

Sasuke stood, wielding a kunai. I glanced around me, mentally counting his shadow clones. Too many; I held my hands up in surrender, glancing at the gathered Hiraishin kunai at my feet.

"You moved all of my kunai?" I asked, lowering my hands. Sasuke smirked.

"Can't have you escaping, can we?" he chuckled. Sakura and Haku walked towards us. I glanced at Sakura and sighed; she looked exhausted, the earth prison draining too much chakra. "Are you okay?" Sasuke asked. Sakura nodded, leaning on Haku.

"No you aren't- sit," I ordered. The young kunoichi nodded slowly before collapsing against a tree. "Did Kazura teach you that jutsu?"

"Yeah," she mumbled as I reactivated demon eyes, studying her chakra coils. I nodded once.

"I'm saying this as a sensei, don't use that unless you absolutely have to. Even then, never use it on me. If you take another ninja's chakra, it won't hurt you. If anything, it'll replenish your reserves. If you take any of Kyuubi's chakra, it could kill you," I said, reaching into my vest for a soldier pill. "Eat this and relax. You all pass," I smiled.

Haku sat down next to Sakura, twirling a piece of grass in between her fingers. Sasuke glanced at the girls before standing by me. Moving quickly, I grabbed Kamisora from its sheath, studying the polished metal and glancing at Sasuke.

"This katana has been all over the world. I had this forged right after I took Araiguma out of Suna. I had always meant to learn how to wield it but it was mostly for show until I met Zabuza and Haku. After learning who we were, Zabuza offered to teach me kenjutsu if I helped Haku with her medical ninjutsu. I accepted immediately; it's not everyday when one of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist take on an apprentice. When Araiguma and I left Zabuza and Haku, they were headed towards Grass. Araiguma and I left for the Land of Iron, and later the Mist, to further my kenjutsu and expand my spy network," I said, remembering my journey fondly.

"Kamisora," I murmured, placing my left hand on the flat of the blade before passing it back to Sasuke. "Take care of that sword, I'm very fond of it," I said, glancing at the sword as Sasuke slid it back into it's black sheath. He nodded and I turned towards the girls. Sakura looked much better, the color returning to her face. She stood, still leaning on the tree just in case.

"I think I'm better now," she said, looking up at me. "What was that?"

"That was a soldier pill. They are made of powerful stimulants and nutrients to help the body replenish chakra and stamina. Certain recipes have different reactions; one is rumored to be so powerful it can keep a shinobi fighting for three days without rest. In my experience, it is better to avoid the stronger pills; they can have negative side effects."

"What kind of side effects?"

"Mostly anxiety," I answered, thinking. "I think all three of you should start carrying soldier pills. They are useful if you know how and when to use them," I said, reaching into my vest and pulling out six pills, two each. "I'm going to give you two but don't use them at the same time. This is my own recipe: I designed it to be fairly weak to lessen the side effects and concentrated on replenishing chakra sooner."

I passed the food pills out and each genin nodded, storing the pills in various pockets. I dismissed the team and began to walk back to the Namikaze Manor, stopping when I felt Sasuke running to catch up. I glanced at him and the paper in his hand.

"I read the paper," he began, sounding a little anxious. "It says I need a parent or guardian to sign it and that I can't have my sensei sign it. Kakashi is my guardian," he finished. I nodded slowly, trying to find a solution. It was true, students could not get their sensei's signature to enter in the exams. I hadn't thought about that when I gave the team the permission slips.

"I know," I said, looking up at him with a smile. "Give it to Tori. She's your clan head, making her your guardian. If the other villages have a problem with that, I can explain the situation," I said, smiling. Sasuke smiled gratefully for just a moment before he turned and raced to join Sakura and Haku as they walked back to the village.

I turned away, a smile on my face before I remembered what was waiting for me at home. My content smile transformed into a grimace.

My living room was covered in lilac, white, and cream. I chuckled, the sight of the Demon of the Bloody Mist amidst all the lace. My chuckled died when Ino and Hinata forced their way through the sea of wedding preparations. I backed away reflexively as Ino pulled a tape measure off of a pile on the coffee table.

"What are you doing?" I asked, trying not to sound terrified of the Yamanaka.

"Relax, Naruto, I'm not going to hurt you. We need your measurements for your suit," Ino almost growled. Zabuza winced, subtly leaving the room as I glared at him.

"It's okay, Naruto-kun," Hinata-chan chuckled quietly. "I already got mine done for the dress. It's your turn. Just stand still and hold your arms out," she said. I grimaced but obeyed as Ino snapped her fingers.

"Stay," she ordered. I stood up straight, holding my arms out while Ino took the measurements, recording them on a notebook Hina-chan had pulled out of the frill. When she was done, she retracted the tape measure and walked back into the kitchen. Hina-chan looked at me sympathetically.

"Just be glad Tori has classes to teach," she smiled optimistically. "Sorry about your living room…"

"That's okay, I can just make some clones to clean," I pointed out, my hands forming the familiar seal. "Kage bunshin no jutsu," I muttered, three clones appearing out of the materials. They groaned with me. "You know what to do," I said. The clones grimaced but began to straighten up the mess, organizing the supplies and samples into various piles. When Ino came back ten minutes later, she didn't glance at the lack of mess as she turned to Hina-chan and I.

"Okay, we need to pick out flowers now," she planned, glancing at the notebook in her hands. "Hinata-chan and I will pick out the flowers while Naruto stands there not touching anything. Got it?"

"Okay," Hina-chan said. I nodded, thanking Kami for not making me pick out flowers.

Ino and Hinata-chan talked excitedly about the wedding all the way to Yamanaka Flowers. Seeing us walk in the door, Yamanaka Lys, Ino's mother, smiled widely.

"Here comes the bride," she said in a singsong voice, making Ino laugh.

"Ohayo Kaasan," she smiled, pulling Hina-chan to the orchids. "The groom's here too. Don't worry, he knows not to touch anything," she said, glancing at me before suggesting different flowers and colors. Lys studied me quietly, still smiling.

"You must be Namikaze Naruto," she said, noting my blonde hair and blue eyes. I nodded, holding out my hand. She took it, still smiling. "Just call me Lys."

"It's nice to meet you," I said, taking my hand back and staring at the girls, sighing. "I will never understand."

"That's what I said," Inoichi said, walking through the back door. Ino smiled at her father before talking about the meaning of lilies. Staring at his daughter, he shook his head. "Nope, still don't."

"Ohayo, Inoichi-san," I greeted. He smiled at me before glancing back at Hina-chan and Ino.

"Picking out flowers? Hmm, they don't really need you here," Inoichi said, his eyes on the front door.

"I'm here for moral support or something," I chuckled. Inoichi glanced at his wife. Lys rolled her eyes at her husband, nodding.

"Ino, I'm stealing Naruto for a moment," he said quietly. Ino didn't noticed over the sound of her own voice. Inoichi flashed a smile, victorious, and dragged me out of the door to the Jounin Standby Station.


Scattered all across the station, I noticed Kakashi, Asuma, Shikaku, Chouza, and a number of other jounin. I sighed, noting that they were all male, almost guaranteeing that we were gathered to talk about my bachelor party.

"Kakashi, why do I feel like this is all your doing?" I growled, watching the silver haired ninja put away his orange book. He grinned under his mask.

"Because it is," he shrugged. "I think Kiba calmed down, by the way. He would've been invited, but…"

"He isn't a jounin?" I guessed. Asuma shook his head.

"His mother wouldn't let him come," he chuckled. I sighed.

"That woman is never going to like me, is she?" I groaned. Kakashi shrugged. "Do we have to do this now? I really don't want pink lilies at my wedding."

"Don't worry, Ino hates pink," Inoichi smirked. "Purple lilies maybe, but never pink." He chuckled when I growled. Shikaku sighed.

"Bachelor parties are troublesome," he muttered, right on cue.

"I don't even think there's a date for the wedding," I argued. "We can't plan the party if we don't have a date."

"Come on, Naruto. You know Hinata is going to have a bachelorette party if Kurenai has anything to do with it," Asuma said, pulling out a cigarette. I shrugged.

"Good for her," I shrugged. "Besides, I doubt her father will allow that. Hina-chan is still the Hyuuga heiress."

Ooh, I brought up Hiashi. That made them think. I walked to the door, my hand up in a wave.

"You don't need me to plan a party. Surprise me," I called. "Ja ne."

I shut the door behind me and heard Kakashi complain about me taking all of his lines again. With a smile, I ran back to Yamanaka Flowers.

Chapter Text

I should've known better. I should have expected this, I yelled at myself as I was chewed out by an angry blonde teenager; Yamanaka Ino had just as big a temper as Sakura. Not as bad as Hina-chan when she was pregnant, but still terrifying.

"Never thought I'd see this: the great Kiiroi Kitsune, quaking in fear before a teenage girl," a familiar voice. I grinned, turning towards the door.

"Sabaku no Gaara. You're a little early," I commented. The redhead chuckled and took a step forward before hitting the wall of killing intent radiating from Ino. He glanced up at the blonde, impressed.

"What'd he do this time?"

"Ditched his fiancée to plan his bachelor party," she growled. Gaara looked at me, smirking.

"Ino, I told you; your father dragged me away. I don't even want a bachelor party!" I exclaimed. Kankuro and Kiba, the epitome of perversion, both stuck their heads in the door.

"What?" They both shouted, indignant before turning to the other and complaining about me.

"Shut up, Kankuro," another familiar voice ordered. The puppeteer shrunk away from the door as his sister stepped in. "Hey, Hina-chan, Naruto," she said, nodding at each of us.

"Temari," I nodded back. "Shikamaru should be at his house if you want to bother him some more," I divulged. Temari's eyes lit up with mischief and she adjusted her battle fan on her back, grinning, before walking out of the door. The two had gotten along just as they had during my party, just as they had in my past. I hoped that they'd get together in this timeline as well.

Gaara watched his sister leave and sighed, glancing at me.

"Poor Shikamaru," he commented. I shrugged.

"Shikamaru will be fine no matter how many times he complains about it. Temari is a good match for him, she'll make sure things get done. That's how most Nara relationships work; just look at his father."

"Speaking of relationships, congrats, you two," Gaara said, smiling at Hina-chan. She blushed and I chuckled.

"Speaking of other relationships, what's going on with you and Haku?" I asked, making the redhead blush. My smile widened and I raised an eyebrow. "What's this, the great Araiguma blushing? Never thought I'd see the day," I grinned.

"Yeah, today is completely unbelievable. Hmm, I'm thinking yellow orchids with purple irises on the tables…" Ino drifted off while Hinata-chan's face broke into a smile.

"I was thinking that! And the bouquets-"

"White hibiscus and lilacs?" Ino asked, bouncing on her heels excitedly.

"Of course," Hina-chan laughed. Gaara and I sweat dropped.


Gaara left all too soon, unable to suffer through the preparations. Since he left, Haku, Sakura, and Tenten all joined us, only adding to the nightmare.

"Who are you getting to make the dress?" Sakura asked, her hands full of cake ideas. I almost regretted not having a repeat of our last wedding: jounin uniforms and friends, the wedding presided over by Gaara, the Godaime Kazekage. Almost; I took one look at Hina-chan's face and abandoned the thought.

"I'm not sure… I've had a few suggestions but I can't decide who to go to…" Hinata-chan's voice drifted off as Ino rattled off preparations.

"We need to come up with an invite list. After that, we still need to come up with a seating chart… Where are you going to have the wedding?" Ino's rapid talking came to a halt and she looked at me expectantly. I struggled to remember the question.

"On the Namikaze grounds. I found this place the first time I-"

"Don't need a back story, just lead the way," Ino cut me off, pointing down the road. I shook my head and held out my arm. Hinata-chan, Sakura, and Haku immediately grabbed my arm while the others looked on, confused.

"Hiraishin time; grab on. I already put down a Hiraishin seal. I figured you'd want to see the place," I said, shrugging. Ino and Tenten shifted the bundles in their arms and closed their hands around my arm. "Close your eyes, it's a little disorienting," I warned. Each girl closed their eyes and I shut my eyes, focusing on the Hiraishin seal near the white gazebo.

~Flashback~

I wandered through the Namikaze grounds for the first time, exploring every inch of my new home. I was about to turn around and walk back to the Namikaze Manor when I spotted something: stepping stones through the woods. Curious, I followed the smooth slate slabs until a garden arch, covered with vibrant blue forget-me-nots, . Looking up from the ground, my jaw dropped slightly.

I was staring at an open field, surrounded loosely by a circle of trees. Just inside the ring of trees, patches of lilac calla lilies and yellow tiger lilies made their home, spreading lazily into the clearing. In the center of the field sat a forlorn gazebo, the white wood rotting and falling apart.

Following the stepping stones, I walked further into the clearing, walking towards the gazebo. I studied the Victorian style, somewhat out of place but still beautiful despite it's bad shape. The eight walls were open to the air and looked like they were hand carved. There was a single bench inside the large gazebo, directly opposite the door.

I glanced around the clearing smiling for no reason. The flowers seemed to imbue life into the air, something calming and exciting at the same time.

~End Flashback~

Staring at the now repaired gazebo, I heard Ino gasp at the sight of the flowers circling the clearing. The were under more control, residing inside a clear boundary I had set for them. Walking over the flowers, Ino's face fell into a confused frown.

"Someone was working on these," she mumbled. My hand went to the back of my neck and I chuckled.

"That was me," I admitted. Ino nodded, studying the rest of the clearing.

"When did you do all this?" she asked, impressed. I shrugged.

"Shadow clones. The only part I really did myself was stain the gazebo," I said, glancing at the rich color of the wood. I had not added anything to the original design, the bench sat in the same space it had before.

"It's beautiful," Tenten breathed, looking around the clearing. Sakura smiled, sitting on the grass.

"I'm stealing this clearing when I get married," she said, closing her eyes as the sun hit her face through the tall trees.

"Sure," I chuckled. "I'm sure he'll appreciate getting married surrounded by flowers," I said, laughing at the image. The image got less humorous when my imagination thought of Sakura's happiness.

Hina-chan looked mesmerized by the clearing. She dropped the items in her hands and sat down next to Sakura feeling the sun's warmth on her face.

"There's something about this clearing…" her voice drifted off as I sat next to her.

"I know," I said quietly. Hina-chan smiled up at me before laying her head in my lap. I played with her hair while Ino explored the clearing, making sure it was perfect for her friend's wedding. Sighing happily, she sat next to us. Haku and Tenten joined us on the grass and we sat talking, catching up on recent events. The sun began to approach the horizon and I sighed, not really wanting to leave.

"Did it pass inspection, Ino-pig?" Sakura asked lightly, leaning on her elbows as she looked at the blonde kunoichi.

"Yes it did, Billboard-brow," she smirked back. I glanced up and groaned, watching someone approached. Ino glanced up, her eyes not identifying the ninja. "What now?"

"Kakashi," I growled. "Probably here to drag me off so he and the other guys can plan a bachelor's party."

Haku laughed quietly as Tenten scowled.

"Guys are idiots," she remarked. I raised an eyebrow. "Not you, just most guys."

"Trouble with Neji?" Hina-chan asked. Tenten sighed, shrugging.

"No idea. He's getting really tense with the Chuunin Exams coming up," Tenten said, leaning onto her master scroll. I shrugged.

"He's in the Branch family," I reminded her. "He thinks he has more to prove than the rest of us. Most of the Rookie Nine are heirs," I said, smiling at Hina-chan as she grimaced.

"Have I ever mentioned how much being the Hyuuga heiress sucks? You can't have any fun," she complained. "I'm glad that Hanabi will take over soon, she's better suited for politics and images than I am."

"You do a great job, Hina-chan," I protested quietly. "If it makes you feel better, I've insulted a few clans and I'm on the council."

"You only did that to help Zabuza and I," Haku defended. I smiled at her, yawning.

"Tell that to Tsume. She hasn't let Kiba anywhere near me after the party," I said as Kakashi approached us. "Hey Kakashi!" I called to the jounin, waving.

"Sorry, girls, I need to steal Naruto for a bit," he said, smiling.

"Go ahead," Hina-chan smiled before glaring at me. "Don't come back until you got drunk and did something stupid; that's what a bachelor party is. Get it out of your system," she ordered. "Also, tell the guys who your best man and groomsmen are."

"Only if you tell the girls now; I want to see their faces," I countered. Hina-chan sighed but nodded.

"All of you and Temari-chan are bridesmaids," she began, looking unwilling to say who her maid of honor was. I didn't blame her, Sakura and Ino fought enough. Being Hina-chan's maid of honor would only cause celebration and revenge.

"Who's the maid of honor?" Ino asked, almost pleadingly. I winced, telling myself that Sakura was only the maid of honor because Sasuke would be my best man.

"It was really hard to pick," Hina-chan tried to delay the inevitable. "I have to say that I could only decide after Naruto decided to make Sasuke his best man," she hinted. Sakura's eyes widened and she began her victory dance.

"Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you-thank-you," Sakura shouted, hugging Hina-chan tightly as Ino fumed.

"Billboard-brow?" she snarled. I held my arm out to Kakashi, my eyes wide. Without a word, he held on and we Hiraishined away, to the house. Even at that distance we could hear Ino's shouting. I winced for Hina-chan's sake. Turning to my living room, I stopped. Every male ninja I knew, jounin, chuunin, and genin alike, was gathered around my coffee table, laughing as someone put on some music. Someone forced a shot glass of sake in my hand. I stared at it before turning to Kakashi, incredulous.

"When did you put this together?" I shouted over the music as a number of kunoichi came into the room, none wearing much more than lingerie and mesh armor. My palm flew to my forehead when I recognized Kurenai and Anko. Kakashi only laughed.

I chuckled, watching everyone get drunk and act like idiots. Before long, the only people sober were myself, Shikamaru, and Sasuke. While everyone else enjoyed the entertainment, we tried to talk over the music.

"By the way, Shikamaru; you're a groomsmen. Don't complain about it, you're walking with Temari," I winked, laughing as the Nara grumbled and grabbed his first glass of sake. Sasuke started laughing until I told him what role he was playing.

"Best man?" he asked, his eyes wide. I nodded and passed him a shot glass.

"Sakura is Hina-chan's maid of honor," I hinted. Sasuke glanced at me before downing the alcohol.

Eventually, Anko tricked me into drinking. I don't remember much from the rest of the night.


I woke up with a huge hangover, groaning. I glanced around myself, noting that I wasn't alone in my bedroom. I put my face in my hands when I recognized who was sleeping next to me. I stumbled from the bed, trying not to wake Anko while I was glad to find myself mostly clothed. I picked up my shirt from the chair it was hanging on, forgotten, and tripped into the hallway. Not wanting to know what had happened with who, I avoided the guest rooms as I walked straight to the kitchen.

Opening the fridge, I pulled out the orange juice. I poured myself a glass, almost missing, and walked into the living room.

Needless to say, it was trashed. One of the couches was on its side, the coffee table upside down and various pieces of clothing were strewn across the room. I chuckled, recognizing Kakashi's mask lying on the armchair. If the other guys were as drunk as I remembered, they wouldn't even remember what his face looked like. Turning the couch and the coffee table right side up, I propped my feet onto the table and drank my juice, trying to remember what happened.

Placing my glass on the table, I stifled a laugh as I saw my old sensei stumble out of one of the rooms wearing only his boxers, his hands covering his face and his Sharingan exposed.

"Your mask's over there," I said, trying not to laugh at his Pakkun boxers. Kakashi nodded tiredly and put his mask on before turning and looking for his clothing. "Who'd you wake up with?"

"Don't know her name… You?" Kakashi said, wincing as he put a hand on his temple. He reached down and pulled his pants out from under a couch cushion. "How did they get there?"

"… You don't know her name? Harsh," I winced as I laughed. I concentrated chakra to my hand and held it to my head, trying to sooth my hangover.

"You dodged the question. Who'd you wake up with?" He said, falling onto the couch next to me. I pulled my hand away from my head, my headache lessened, and held my hand to Kakashi's hair. "Thanks."

"No problem," I said. After a while, I grimaced. "Mitarashi Anko," I told him. His eyes widened and he leaned back. "At least I woke up with my pants on," I retorted in advance. Kakashi blushed under his mask.

"Touché." I sat there for a while as various ninja stumbled out of the rooms wearing more or less clothing. After they picked up their clothes, they retreated back into the guest rooms without a sound. I think Sasuke won the contest though; he stalked out of his room wearing a towel, glared at me, picked up his clothes, and walked out of the door without a word.

All the rest of the clothing reclaimed, I spotted an orphaned chuunin vest. Picking it up, I recognized it and laughed. Kakashi walked over to me, confused.

"What is it?"

"Iruka," I laughed, holding out the vest. Kakashi laughed with me, stopping when Anko stalked out of my room, my Sage coat over her lack of clothing. I kept my face straight as she walked over.

"Kami, I have a hangover… Do I want to know what happened last night?" she asked, smirking at me. I coughed.

"I don't think anything happen. Unlike Kakashi, I woke up wearing my pants," I smirked at the jounin. Anko chuckled before wincing. "Come here," I said, my hand glowing green. She obeyed, sitting beside me and I put a hand to her temple.

"You've got to teach me this," she said, closing her eyes as her hangover weakened.

"Do you get drunk often enough to make it worth it?" I asked, chuckling as Anko glared at me, dodging the question. I pulled my hand away and pointed to Iruka's vest. "I have a feeling Iruka's going to be late."

Right on cue, the chuunin appeared. He, unlike many of the ninja that had searched the living room, was wearing most of his clothes.

"Looking for this, Iruka-sensei?" I smirked, holding out the flak jacket. The chuunin smiled sheepishly before walking over to me and taking his vest back.

"Thanks… Damn it, I'm late!" he shouted, sprinting out the front door.

"Called it," I chuckled, stretching. "Never doing that again in my life. I can't even remember most of yesterday," I complained. Anko grinned.

"That's what makes bachelor parties fun. You aren't supposed to know what you did, especially if you're the groom." I raised an eyebrow.

"Been to a lot of bachelor parties?" I asked. If Anko had any political training, she wouldn't have grinned and nodded. However, Anko didn't have any need for niceties.

"They're more fun than bachelorette parties," she shrugged. "Guys understand that you're supposed to get drunk at a party."

"Tell that to Kakashi; he doesn't even know the name of the girl he slept with," I said.

"It's okay, she probably won't remember his," she shrugged. I smirked.

"Do you know he took his mask off yesterday?" Anko looked scandalized. "Let me guess, you can't remember?"

"Okay, Naruto. That goes in the 'never talk about ever again' box," Kakashi interjected.

"Most bachelor parties do," Anko grinned. She got her lingerie together and walked towards the door. "Stealing your coat!" she shouted at the door.

"I want that back later!" I called back. She laughed and slammed the front door behind her. I rolled my eyes and sighed, pulling a Shikamaru.

"Troublesome," I muttered. Kakashi laughed and stretched.

"I should probably get home," he announced. "Ja ne," he waved, Shunshining away and leaving me with the cleanup.

Chapter Text

"Kabuto, can you do me a favor?"

"That depends," he said warily.

"It isn't much. I want you to know that I know what you're doing. I won't give you away as long as you give your master a message," I said quietly. Kabuto's eyes flashed with panic before he killed the emotion, transforming it into arrogance.

"What message?" he growled quietly at his discovery.

"It isn't very long," I reassured him. He didn't look very reassured though, so I sighed and gave him the message. "Foxes eat snakes. Tell him to keep that in mind next time you see him."

"Why are you telling me that? Why don't you just call some ANBU and see if they can drag me away?" he smirked.

"I want to give your master a chance to stop before he gets in over his head. If he comes to Konoha, I can guarantee that both myself and the Professor will stand in his way. As for the ANBU, they might get hurt attacking you. I know you are strong and that you still have a lot of potential. Don't make me attack you and I'll leave you alone. I'm not going to tell anyone about your allegiances," I promised.

Leaving the corner I had taken for my chat with Hebi-teme's spy, I glanced around at the group. Most of the ninja were still looking at me, a number of them were scowling from trying and failing to overhear us. Sighing, I watched as the Oto nin sprinted through the crowd.

This is going to kill my ears, I complained to Kyuu. He had no sympathy for me, arguing that I should let them attack the traitor. Instead of following his advice, I ducked under Dosu, grabbing his left ankle and wincing as a sound wave attacked me, shrieking in my ears. I twisted the Oto nin around, grabbing his right wrist to meet his ankle. I glanced tiredly at the ninja now pinned under my right hand.

"Oto nin… Judging from the melody arm, you must be Kinuta Dosu," I said, my left hand going to my ear. "Crude but effective, especially if your opponent has sensitive hearing," I commented, releasing him as I stood. I offered a hand to him, he studied it with narrowed eyes. "It's just a hand, it won't bite." I bit back a grimace, remembering Deidara's techniques.

Dosu ignored my hand and stood slowly, He glared at me with his left eye.

"I don't need your help," he growled. I sighed, moving my hand to the pocket in my Sage coat.

"I'm only being polite," I shrugged, staring into the crowd of genin before raising my voice. "There will be no more fighting in here. That extends to all nations, including Konoha genin," I said, nodding at the Rookie Nine. All but Kiba stared at their feet.

A large cloud of smoke rose from the front of the room.

"Quiet, pests!" Morino Ibiki shouted from the smoke. The smoke lifted to reveal Ibiki and his crew, all facing the genin. "Sorry to keep you waiting," he said quietly. "I am Morino Ibiki, proctor of the first test in the Chuunin Exam."

Unwilling to break the tension, I stifled a laugh as the genin all froze.

"You, from the Hidden Sound!" he shouted, pointing to Dosu. "No doing whatever you want before the exam! Or do you want to fail before it even starts?" he threatened. Dosu glared at me before turning back to Ibiki.

"I apologize. This is our first time taking the exams. It will not happen again."

"I'm only going to say this once, so listen up! There will be no battles, competitions, or the like without permission from the proctors. Even if you do get permission, actions to kill your opponent will not be permitted. Anyone that messes with me will be disqualified immediately," he threatened.

"Hmm, this exam looks easy," Zaku muttered. He quieted when Ibiki spoke.

"Now then, we will start the first test of the Chuunin Exam. Turn in your applications and take a number card. Sit at the desk with your number on it. Then we will hand out the written test."

When all the applicants were seated, I stood close to Ibiki as he explained the rules. I watched as the rookies all tried not to panic.

"Know those that commit awkward cheating doom themselves. If you want to be a chuunin, know that shinobi should act like exemplary shinobi. Also, if one team member gets zero points, the entire team shall be disqualified," he announced, grinning sadistically. "This test lasts one hour. The last question will be given after forty five minutes." The second hand on the clock twitched to twelve… "Begin!"

At once, all the genin turned over their papers, reading each question. I smiled as I watched Sakura, already scribbling at the parchment. I smiled as Sasuke figured out the puzzle, activating his Sharingan behind his hair. Haku created mirrors to reflect other people's answers; Akamaru began to bark the answers to Kiba; Tenten used mirrors on the ceiling connected by ninja wire to see other people's tests; Shino began to use flies to gather the answers; Neji activated his Byakugan; Ino used her family's mind transfer jutsu on Sakura; Gaara created his third eye out of sand; Kankuro used Crow to gather the answers.

The forty five minutes sped by as the same teams were disqualified. Pacing the front, Ibiki stopped and turned to the genin.

"All right! Here is the tenth question," he announced. "But, before that, I'm going to add some rules for the last question."

Just as the room tensed, Kankuro walked back in, smiling before he read the atmosphere. Ibiki chuckled at him.

"Aren't you lucky? It looks like playing with dolls paid off. Anyway, go sit down," Ibiki ordered. Kankuro smiled and walked back to his chair, dropping the answers on Temari's desk as he walked by. "Let me explain… These are the hopeless rules.

"First," he began, "You guys will have to choose whether or not you will take this tenth question."

"What do you mean, choose?" Temari shouted. "What happens if you don't take the question?"

"If you choose not to take this question, your score will be zero. In other words, you will fail," Ibiki said, smiling evilly. I stifled a chuckle out of respect for the genin. "And of course, the same goes for your teammates."

The room got louder as the genin protested the rule. They quieted when Ibiki spoke again.

"And one more rule," he said, looking down. "If you choose to take it and are unable to answer correctly, then you will lose your right to take the Chuunin Exams ever again!" Kiba broke the inevitable silence, just as he had last time.

"What kind of ridiculous rule is that! Besides, there are plenty of people here who have taken the Chuunin Exams before!" he shouted, indignant. Akamaru barked in agreement while Ibiki laughed, silencing the room once more.

"You're just unlucky," he said, staring at the genin. "I make the rules this year. But, I give you the option to go back. For those of you who aren't confident, you can choose not to take it and take the exam next year or the year after that. Let's begin," Ibiki growled. "The tenth question… Those who will not be taking it: raise your hands! Once I confirm your number, leave the room."

Once more, the Konoha genin, number 40, was the first to leave, taking his team with him out the door. More and more genin raised their hands and I saw Kiba tense up. Briefly I wondered who would shout out and end the test.

Eventually, watching the teams dwindle down, Kiba snapped.

"Give us the damn question! None of us are going to quit at this point, just get it over with!" he yelled to the proctor. Ibiki put on his most serious face and stared at the class.

"I'll say it again. This is a life altering decision. If you want to quit, now is your chance!" No one moved. Ibiki strode forward, counting the genin. Ibiki glanced around at the sentinel ninja, each nodding their head. When he looked at me, standing at the left of the chalkboard, I grinned and nodded. "I like your determination! For those who are still here… The first exam… You've passed it!" he announced. The genin all looked surprised. Sakura was the first to recover.

"What- what does that mean? All of a sudden, you're telling us that we all passed!" she shouted, standing at her desk. "What about the tenth question?"

"There never was a tenth question," Ibiki said, laughing. "Well, you can look at your decision to stay as the tenth question." He smiled. Temari was the next to complain.

"Hey! Then what were the first nine questions for! It was just a waste of time!" the Suna kunoichi shouted at the interrogator.

"No, not a waste," he said, turning. Ibiki went on to explain the purpose of each aspect of the test, bringing in the hypothetical situation again. "Now, this mission… Will you take it or not? Because you want your life spared, because your comrades will be in danger… Can you get away from dangerous missions? The answer is… No. There are going to be missions that you must accept, no matter how dangerous or risky it may be! Showing your courage to your teammates in a tight spot, as well as the ability to get through hardships… Those are qualities needed of chuunin! In a pinch, there are those who cannot risk their own fate and those who waver and give up on their chances thinking that they will have another chance. I believe that those fools who lack determination have no right to become a chuunin. You have passed through the gates; the first part of the Chuunin Exams has been completed. I wish you-"

Ibiki's speech was cut short by the flying ball of cloth that was Mitarashi Anko. Two kunai later and the banner was up, hiding both myself and Ibiki to the genin.

"You guys! It is not time to celebrate yet! I'm the proctor of the second exam, Mitarashi Anko!" she shouted to the genin. I poked my head out from behind the curtain and sweat dropped, noting that she still wore my Sage coat.

"Quite an entrance," I commented. She glared at me, licking her lips.

"Shut up. Let's move onto the next stage! Follow me!" she yelled back at the genin, none of them moving. Ibiki stepped away from the banner.

"Read the atmosphere," he said emotionlessly. Anko glanced at the genin. I laughed as Sakura compared me to Anko.

"78?" she asked. "You let 26 teams slide by? I guess the first exam was too easy this time 'round."

"It seems that this time there are a lot of excellent candidates," he growled. Anko shrugged, looking back at the genin.

"Hmm… Well, all right… I'll drop more than half of them in the second exam," she said confidently before wincing slightly, the remnants of her hangover finding their way to her head. "I'll give you the details tomorrow. We'll be changing locations, so get a jounin to tell you the time and place. That's it, dismissed!"

~Tomorrow, Forest of Death~

"What is this place?" a Suna genin stammered, gazing at the 'no trespassing' signs and the foreboding trees.

"This is the location of the second exam, the forty fourth training ground," Anko answered, smirking at the genin. I jumped down from one of the trees, landing with a small crater as I grinned at the intimidated genin.

"Careful, Anko-chan. You don't want them to be scared before they go in there," I chuckled. "The forty fourth training ground… Better known as the Forest of Death." Anko withered.

"You're stealing my lines," she hissed. I turned to face her and winked.

"Okay, I'll back off. I just need to say something: if anyone finds any kunai that look like this," I held up one of my Hiraishin kunai, "Pick it up and throw it, doesn't matter where. Also, don't freak out if you see a yellow flash."

"Losing your Hiraishin kunai, taicho?" Gaara asked, chuckling. A few of the genin looked confused at the title.

"Kind of, some of the animals in there thought it'd be fun to scatter my kunai all over the place. I think it's revenge for monopolizing the best field," I said, shrugging before turning to the genin. "Most of you know who I am. If not, all you need to know is that I am a jounin. For the rookies here, just because you're young doesn't mean your weak. Don't let the older genin push you around," I said, smiling at Team Seven.

"Hai, sensei," Sakura nodded at me. Sasuke stood next to her, unfazed by the atmosphere resonating from the trees. Haku nodded at me, smiling.

"I'll be in the forest. Don't kill anyone, Anko, especially not my team. Watch out for the Araiguma," I warned. Anko rolled her eyes. I smiled at Hina-chan and motioned towards her necklace. She rolled her eyes too but closed her hand around the blood steel vixen.

I jumped over the fence, stopping on a tree branch out of sight.

"There's something creepy about this place," Ino said, her hands in front of her face. Anko laughed at the girl.

"Heh. This place is called the Forest of Death; you'll soon realize why. Evidently we have a lot of hothead kids this time… This'll be fun," Anko chuckled quietly.

"Before we start the second exam, you all need to sign these," Anko announced, holding the waivers. "It's a consent form; you must sign it before I can begin the test. From here on out, there will be deaths. You have to sign these, or I'll get blamed for it," she said, smiling. She went through explaining the rules and the time limit.

"Five days!" Ino leaned forward. Chouji paled.

"What will we do for food?" he asked, almost crying,

"Hunt. Eat or be eaten. There are things in this forest that will not hesitate to swallow you whole… I recommend going for the smaller prey."

"That forest is teeming with man-eating creatures, poisonous bugs, and poisonous plants," Kabuto smiled. After hearing more and more of the risks, Shikamaru raised his hand.

"So, can we quit in the middle of it?" he asked tiredly. Anko gave him a harsh smile.

"According to the rules, no. I want you to spend five days in that forest."

"Just like I thought… This is going to be such a pain," he complained.

"Moving on, conditions of disqualification. Number one, if all three members can't make it to the tower by the end of five days with both scrolls. Number two, if a team loses a member or a member becomes incapacitated. Also, do not look at the scrolls until you've reached the tower! That's it for the rules; give all three of your consent forms to the guys over there. After that, pick the gate you want to go in by. The gates will open simultaneously." Anko stopped, sighing. "Finally, I'm supposed to give you a word of advice or something. Don't die!"

Handing in the consent forms, each genin team received a scroll. Like last time, Team Seven was given a heaven scroll before they left for their gate. The other teams all drifted away from the main gate and I saw Anko stare into the trees.

"26 teams… I wonder how many of them are going to survive…"

I left Anko at the main gate, following the now familiar paths of the forest to gate 12. The time flew past and the chuunin opened the lock in preparation. When the gates finally threw themselves open, Sasuke took the lead as the trio ran into the trees.


Each time I felt one of my kunai thrown, I Hiraishined to it, scaring quite a few genin. Time passed as my kept tabs on the more important teams: Team Seven, the Sand Siblings, the Oto nin, and Kabuto's team. When one of my foxes alerted me that Orochimaru was about to attack, I ran to Team Seven, only a few miles away. When I reached them, Orochimaru had begun his attack.

Unfortunately, I arrived just in time to watch him- her- swallow the earth scroll, something I did not appreciate.

"Well, let's begin the battle for the scrolls," he said, licking his lips. He tried to freeze Sasuke with killing intent, something I had already shown him. I watched Sasuke stay frozen, by choice this time, as Orochimaru threw the kunai towards Sakura. Narrowing his eyes, Sasuke leapt to her, picking her up and taking her away. I jumped to the snake farther away, Haku struggling inside. I withdrew Mizuchi and sliced the snake's side open before he could notice I was there. Covered in slime, Haku fell out of the snake, landing on a tree branch further down.

"Oh, this is disgusting!" she complained, trying to wipe the slime off. I nodded, knowing the feeling from experience.

"Yes it is, let's go save Sasuke and Sakura; he's fighting someone out of his league," I said, jumping back to Sasuke. Again I had horrible timing, catching a glimpse of Orochimaru extracting himself from another snake.

"Never lower your guard, even for a moment," he said in a woman's voice. "Prey must always be tensed and ready to flee desperately… before a predator." I grimaced, disgusted when he started moving his tongue. He slid out of the snake, his lower body a long snake tail as he wound up a tree. Disturbed, I threw a kunai towards him, stabbing the wood above him.

"Orochimaru…" I said loudly. "Have I mentioned how… disgusting your techniques are?" At my voice, the Snake Sannin's head shot up, looking for me. "Oi, Sasuke! Sorry I'm late."

"Naruto," he said quietly. I thought he'd say something really heartwarming and grateful, a sign of how little I understand him. "Very dramatic entrance. Is Haku-"

"I'm fine. Covered in who knows what, but not inside a snake anymore," she said, shrugging. Sasuke smiled tightly before glancing at Orochimaru.

"She-"

"I know. Sasuke, meet Orochimaru, the Snake Sannin. You might've heard me refer to him as Hebi-teme. He's a body snatching maniac and very strong, a dangerous combination. Protect Sakura and Haku, you've done enough against him," I ordered. Sasuke nodded, moving in front of Sakura as Haku checked her for injuries.

"You must be the fox Kabuto was telling me about… How did you discover him?" he asked, his tongue flitting in and out of his mouth.

"By putting two and two together when other people got three. I also know about how you sent the Oto ninjas to kill Sasuke. I know that you want to put a curse seal on Sasuke. I won't let that happen," I said, drawing a kunai. "I don't let my teammates die."

"A pretty speech, Fox, but do you have the strength to back it?" Orochimaru smirked. I answered with a chuckle. He stared at me with narrowed eyes and I pointed to myself.

"Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto. The question isn't if I have enough strength to protect my team. The question is if I have enough self restraint to let you slither away with your life."

"I don't think so," he said, rolling up his sleeve revealing a seal. His hand flew to his mouth and, before I could move, he ran his bleeding thumb across the seal. "Kuchiyose no jutsu!"

A whirlwind rose up under him, destroying the trees as a large snake appeared under his feet. The snake flicked it's tongue at Sasuke and I narrowed my eyes.

"Orochimaru… Leave my team alone. This is between you and me. At least until the ANBU get here." The ninja raised an eyebrow, smirking.

"You may be a jounin but you aren't close to my level yet. Who knows, maybe I'll get you the seal," he grinned, the snake turning to me. I chuckled quietly and threw the kunai towards his head. He leaned to the side easily, allowing the kunai to bury itself in the tree behind him.

"I have a better idea; you want a battle for the scrolls? Winner takes all?"

"Now, now, Naruto-kun… If I wanted your scroll, your team wouldn't be alive right now," he smiled, licking his lips again. "But, you seem to know what I want."

"I know exactly what you want and I know exactly how to stop you. I'm giving you the chance to run with your pet before I get angry." Haku smiled hopefully at me then sadistically at Orochi-teme.

"You should leave," she advised. "You won't like Naruto-sensei when he gets angry. There is a reason why he has a flee on sight order."

"Silly girl, I know all about your sensei. Namikaze Naruto, the infamous Kiiroi Kitsune. I have no doubt that he is strong. I also have no doubt that he is not on my level. Kiiroi Kitsune may be feared in Kumo and Iwa. I am feared in every nation."

"Mostly because you're a body-snatching pedophile," I smirked. Orochimaru glanced at me with disdain. "Sorry, teme, did I hit a nerve there?"

"Do what you want, Fox. You can't stop me," he said, ignoring my insults. His hands met in front of his chest in a hand seal I had not seen in years. My eyes widening slightly, I jumped in front of Sasuke, too slow to draw Mizuchi.

"Naruto!" I heard Sasuke shouted behind me, warningly. I winced and growled as Orochimaru's fangs connected to my neck. His neck shortened, his head returning to his shoulders. I fell to my knees, clutching the three commas now forming in my skin. Forcing my head up, I glared at Orochimaru.

"Sasuke, take Sakura and Haku and get out of here. I'll keep him busy while you three get away," I coughed, my skin radiating with pain as Orochimaru's soul buried itself into my subconscious. Sasuke's eyes widened and he took a step towards me.

"I can't just-" he fell silent as he met my eyes. He nodding determinedly, and jumped towards Sakura and Haku. Both stared at me, their eyes wide, before I nodded towards them. They frowned worriedly but let Sasuke drag them away.

Watching them leave, Orochimaru laughed.

"That was foolish of you. Once I finish you, I can easily track Sasuke down and give him the seal."

Kyuu, find that piece of his soul and kill it. I'm going to summon you when you're done.

Got it, kit. Kyuubi roared into my subconscious and I felt a small shadow in the corners of my mind jump. I sat, seemingly defenseless, as Kyuubi tracked down Hebi-teme's imprint on me. Glancing at Orochimaru, I laughed humorlessly.

"If you were even a little bit human, you'd understand… If I let them stay, they'd want to fight you. I can't risk that," I said, glaring at the Oto nin. His smirk grew into a sadistic smile.

"Do you still think that they could fight me? You couldn't even defend yourself. Look at you. I'm surprised you can even move while-"

"While your soul gets comfortable in my subconscious?" I said, feeling the pain evaporate as Kyuu roared again, now in victory. I glanced at the seal, the pain gone but the tattoo still visible. "I did my research. Did you do yours'? Kuchiyose no jutsu!" I shouted, slamming my palm to the tree trunk. Instead of a whirlwind, the trees lit in an inferno, burning away as Kyuubi appeared out of the air and released a growl that echoed around the trees, a wave of killing intent pulsing away from him. I jumped to his head, placing a hand on his head. He shook as I took the chakra he had no control over. Orochimaru, still in disguise, paled at the sight.

"I will say this one more time. If you value your pathetic existence, run. Get out of this forest and then out of Konoha. If you still believe that you are even close to my level, stay and fight."

I had hardly finished when he narrowed his eyes and sank into the tree branch, retreating. I frowned.

"That wasn't fun… I was kind of hoping he'd stay and summon Manda."

"I hate that snake," Kyuubi growled, shrinking quickly. I chuckled.

"Which one?" I asked, jumping off onto a tree branch. When he had finished his transformation, he leapt up to meet me, thinking.

"Both," he decided. I laughed, petting him as Anko appeared, racing out of the trees.

"Oi, Anko-chan!" I shouted, waving. Seeing me sitting besides Kyuubi, she lost her footing and fell down a branch. Jumping back up to meet us, she panted heavily.

"Did you- see a-"

"Not very subtle and extremely disgusting snake shaped like a human? Yeah, we saw him. Before you ask, my team got away."

"While you did what?"

"Me? I got a new tattoo, courtesy of Hebi-teme," I said, exposing my left shoulder. The black curse seal was right above my mate seal. It would have looked cool if I hadn't known what it was supposed to mean. Recognizing the seal, Anko's eyes widened and her right hand went to her own seal.

"You got bitten?" she asked, panicked.

"I'm okay. I know what the cursed seal of heaven does. I already had Kyuubi track down and kill the part of Orochimaru inside my mind," I reassured the Snake Mistress. "He was aiming for Sasuke."

"Why did he- oh, no."

"Yeah, he wants Sasuke for his next body. I couldn't make it to get Sasuke out of the way so I took the bite. Sasuke doesn't have a friendly bijuu to defend his mind," I shrugged, sitting. Anko sat next to me, dazed. After a while, I leaned back, sighing. "He isn't dead. I know what he's planning."

"So you let him go?" she asked, sounding angry and surprised. I nodded slowly.

"He's going to launch an invasion of Konoha. Oto and Suna against us. We don't have to worry about Suna, I have spies and friends to watch them and help limit the damage. All we have to worry about is the Oto nin and Orochimaru. Orochimaru will attack Hiruzen while he trusts his pawns to obliterate Konoha. What he doesn't know is that most of his fighting force will be fighting for me." Anko raised her eyebrows.

"Why would Orochimaru's followers be fighting for you?"

"A lot of Hebi-teme's followers do so out of fear; if I give them someone else to fear or promise to kill Orochimaru most switch sides." I stared into the trees, my ears listening for sounds. Picking up Haku's voice, I smiled. "Hey, Kyuu. Do you want to stay out a little longer?"

"Stop beating around the bush. What do you want?"

"I just wanted to send a fox to Team Seven to tell them I'm not dead or hurt. They need to relax before they attract attention."

"I'll do it," he said, shaking his fur as he stood, stretching. "Anything else?"

"Yeah, tell Sasuke it wasn't his fault, remind Sakura that the earth prison dome is for emergencies only, and tell Haku to make sure they don't hurt themselves. I'll be waiting for them at the tower."

"Got it. Can I-"

"No, Sandstorm needs time. Come to the tower when you're done."

"Can I at least-"

"Yes, but don't kill anyone," I said tiredly, watching Kyuubi's train of thought as Anko stared at us, amused. "Get going."

Kyuubi grumbled, smacking me in the shoulder with one of his tails before sprinting into the trees, his scarlet fur swallowed by the trees. I glanced back at Anko.

"What?" I asked. She chuckled and shook her head, standing up.

"Let's just get to the tower. Maybe someone made it back already,"

"Not likely," I shrugged. "There are only two teams that could even be close to the tower: the Sand Siblings and Team Gai."

"You don't think your team covered some ground?" she chuckled. I shook my head, serious.

"They saw their sensei get bitten in the shoulder by an S-ranking missing-nin, one of the legendary Sannin. Add that to the wave of killing intent Kyuu sent out and how tired they were to start with, I'm pretty sure they didn't make it that far. On top of that, they still have to find the Earth scroll," I said, jumping into the trees. Anko ran to catch up but stayed a pace behind me. Glancing back, I smirked. "Is Mitarashi Anko scared of the dark?"

"No, I'm letting you be the bait for anything that sees us," she grinned back, licking her lips. With Orochimaru, it was disgusting. With Anko, it was intimidating.

"Everything in this forest knows me, I've been training in this forest for more than three years. I learned the Chidori, Rasengan, Hiraishin, and my other more dangerous techniques. I mastered the Rasengan in this forest, inventing what I call the Rasenshuriken."

"You've invented a jutsu?"

"Of course I have. I couldn't just use my dad's jutsu all the time. Silly Anko," I chuckled. A kunai flew past my face, slicing my cheek. I sighed. The scratch was in the same place that Anko had marked in the last timeline, slashing through the whisker marks on my left cheek. "Let me rephrase: I can't always use techniques people expect me to. You never use snakes until you need to; I don't often use Hiraishin or Chidori."

We ran in silence until the tower came into sight. Dawn was approaching and I smiled at the tower, the doors already opened.

Chapter Text

Later that day, Kyuu bounded from the forest, racing towards the tower. I saw a few of the shinobi panic at the sight of his tails but I called them away.

"Oi! Don't touch him, he's with me," I shouted to the nervous ninja. They didn't relax, only held their kunai aloft as I jumped down to Kyuu. Seeing me, he skid to a stop and starting laughing quietly. His laughter got louder until his voice echoed off the trees.

"You… should have… seen their faces!" he laughed, breathless. He winced and a tail went to his ribs. "I'm laughing… too hard!"

Of course, that got me laughing. When the Sand Siblings arrived minutes later, both scrolls in tow, both Kyuubi and I were rolling on the grass laughing as we shared the image of the Oto nin being… greeted by the most powerful tailed beast. Kankuro glanced at us before walking inside, followed by Temari. Sandstorm and Gaara stayed behind, kneeling by us while we recovered. After a while, Gaara cleared his throat.

"Do you need medical attention? You seem a little…" Gaara drifted off at a loss for words. Glancing up at us, Sandstorm cut in.

"Insane?"

"Exactly," he said, smiling at the kitsune. I recovered slowly, holding my now aching sides. "What happened?"

"Oto, Kyuubi, lots of growling and screaming," I chuckled. Gaara's eyes lit up with humor and he chuckled, nodding.

"Did you see Orochimaru?" he asked quietly. I nodded, scowling.

"Teme bit me," I said, shaking my shirt to the side to show the seal. "Don't worry, Kyuubi killed the soul fragment before it could get comfortable. I'm not really sure what'll happen now. It might be possible for me to go into the curse seal stages and the demon cloak at the same time."

"Have I ever mentioned how glad I am that you don't hate me?" Gaara said after a long silence. I chuckled and glanced at Kyuu.

"Do you want to stay out a little longer? Introduce yourself to the other jounin?" I asked, studying him. The demon fox thought about it for a while before nodding, shaking his fur and sending grass into the air.

"Yeah, I could go for that. Fainting jounin are always funny," he chuckled, growing a few inches so he reached my waist. Waving Gaara to follow me, I opened the doors and led the way to the other shinobi.

Most of the room was occupied by jounin sensei and exam sentinels. I saw Anko debriefing a few ANBU in a corner.

Stepping into the room, the shinobi flew silent before reaching for weapons. I sighed and stepped in front of Kyuubi, who was now growling quietly at the ninja.

"Yes, he's a demon. Get over it," I said tiredly. A few of the shinobi narrowed their eyes, tightening their grip on their weapons. "Relax, he isn't going to hurt anyone."

Gaara chuckled at the assembled ninja before walking towards his siblings, waving to Kyuu and I. Kakashi walked up to us, smiling.

"Yo, Naruto, Kyuubi," he greeted, not disturbed. I chuckled, remembering his first reaction as I summoned Kyuubi for the first time in front of him.

~Flashback~

"Naruto-kun, you need to summon him!" Hina-chan shouted over the fires. We were in Ame, once again caught in the middle of a Great Shinobi War.

"I can't! There are still civilians in here!" I shouted back, trying to help Kakashi move rubble away from the few survivors of the ongoing attack.

"They'll all be dead if you don't do something!" she shouted, ducking as Sasori's tail flew towards her. She growled as she jabbed a kunai into one of the joints, temporarily jamming the weapon. "Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Kabuto?"

"Everyday!" I shouted back, trying to find a solution. I glanced at Kakashi, desperate. He nodded, pulling a small girl out of the collapsed building. I closed my eyes briefly, knowing that this would terrify more of our forces than Kabuto's resurrected army.

Get ready Kyuubi. Battle time.

Hell, yeah. I'll kill everyone all over again, he grinned in my mind. I sighed, my hands flying through the seals.

"Kuchiyose no jutsu!" A roar filled the air as civilians and shinobi alike froze in terror. I glanced at Kakashi, now on one knee from the wave of killing intent pulsing from my oldest friend. "Hatake Kakashi… meet Kyuubi no Kitsune," I said quietly. I jumped onto Kyuubi's head and we began our assault on the enemy ninja, trying to buy time for the Ame citizens to escape the last of the battle.

~End Flashback~

I shook myself from the memory. Wordlessly, I pulled my shirt aside, revealing the seal. Watching Kakashi's right eye widen, I shook my head.

"I'm okay, I had Kyuu track down Hebi-teme's soul fragment before it could get settled. I couldn't get Sasuke away from him in time so I took the bite for him. I'm surprised that Sasuke didn't complain about Hebi-teme's fangs being in his neck. It's really disgusting," I said, wrinkling my nose as Kakashi visibly relaxed.

"And Orochimaru?"

"Still alive. He'll be back, same time and place. Anko showed up right after he retreated. I told her bits and pieces but she doesn't know the big thing."

"All right. How's the rest of the team?"

"Last I saw them, they were all okay. I had them escape after Hebi-teme bit me," I explained. Kakashi nodded and we went back to the main group, ready to wait for the rest of the teams.

At the end of the five days, the same twenty one genin had made it through the second exam. The Hokage was told of Orochimaru's interference and asked me to keep an eye on his movements. The genin were assembled and the meaning behind the Chuunin Exams was explained to them. I watched on the sidelines as Gekkou Hayate jumped down and explained about the preliminaries. I watched Kabuto raise his hand to quit, Orochimaru smiling at him the entire time.

"Excuse me, I'll quit," Kabuto smiled at Hayate. The special jounin nodded and glanced at his clipboard.

"Let's see… You're Yakushi Kabuto from Konoha, correct? Okay, you can leave," Hayate said, glancing back at the older genin.

"Hai," he nodded, walking away. Hiruzen studied the genin.

"I've seen his face before… If I remember correctly, he dropped out of the last main battle as well. What is he thinking?" He asked quietly. Ibiki glanced at Anko and she referred to her notes.

"Yakushi Kabuto… According to his records, he's fail six straight times."

"Background?"

"Hmm… From his time at the Academy, he was a student that didn't really stand out and his grades were average. He didn't pass the graduation exam until his third try. After that, as for the missions he's carried out, he's done fourteen D-rank and two C-rank. Not a battle record to write home about. However…" Anko's voice drifted off.

"However?" Hiruzen asked. I leaned into the conversation.

"It's about before the Academy. Do you remember the story about the boy brought back from the Kikyo Pass battle?" Hiruzen nodded.

"I remember. As I recall, an enemy boy survivor at the battlefield was taken back by a jounin in the medical unit. So he's that boy?" he asked. Anko nodded as Kabuto walked away. Hayate coughed, bringing attention back to him.

"So, are there any others who would quit?" I saw Sasuke's resolve, unmarred by pain from his curse seal.

"Eh, now then. We will begin the preliminaries," Hayate said. "These will be one on one individual battles. In other words, actual battle format. There are now exactly twenty people so we shall have ten battles. The winners of each battle will be the one to move forward to the third exam. There will be no rules in their battles. You will fight until someone dies, collapses, or admits defeat. And, if you don't want to die, I recommend that you admit defeat quickly. Also, if I deem that a match is over- er, I don't want to needlessly add to the number of dead bodies so I will intervene and stop the match." he nodded at Anko, who spoke into her headset. As the wall slid up, Hayate nodded at it, coughing. "This will randomly select the foes for the preliminaries. Now then, let's get right to it and announce the two names for the first battle."

The signboard flickered to life, kanji symbols dancing until they landed as they had last time: Akado Yoroi vs. Uchiha Sasuke.

"Now then, the two displayed on the board, come forward," Hayate said calmly. The two genin stepped up and Hayate raised his hands. "All right, the two for the first battle have been selected. Any objections?"

"No," Yoroi called.

"All right," Sasuke smirked. Orochimaru smiled and I clenched my fist.

"Eh, now then; we will begin the first battle. Everyone else, please move to the upper levels," he coughed. "Now then, let's begin."

The battle went much faster than it had last time. Without the seal, Sasuke could use his Sharingan to it's full potential. He was able to evade Yoroi's chakra absorption technique as soon as he realized what he was doing. With the nintaijutsu I suspected Kakashi had been teaching him, the battle was over in minutes.

"Stop," Hayate ordered. Hr walked to Yoroi's now unconscious body, Sasuke standing tall a few feet away. "This match is over. The winner of the first battle is Uchiha Sasuke. You move onto the finals," he told him. Sasuke smiled victoriously before coming up the steps to meet us on the upper level.

"Eh, now than… We'll get started with the second match right away." The board lit up again, now displaying Abumi Zaku vs. Aburame Shino.

The preliminaries went as they had last time, the same victors and the same losers with the exception of my Hina-chan. When she was called down to battle Neji, she switched away from the gentle fist and going into the early stages of the warau akuma, which I'd been teaching her. Neji never stood a chance facing unknown and effective techniques.

When Haku was picked to go against Kiba, he laughed again. His laughter ended when he and Akamaru found themselves in a dome of ice that not even Fang over Fang could destroy. When the mirrors were dismissed, both Kiba and Akamaru were temporarily paralyzed, vaguely resembling porcupines.

The date set for the third and final exam, the genin and their jounin sensei talked about preparations for the exam and how they would train. Before I could get ambushed by Haku, looking for more medical ninjutsu training, I separated myself from the crowd and tracked down Hayate.

"Hayate-san!" I shouted, waving at the ever-sick special jounin. He glanced over at me, smiling slightly.

"Oh, hello Naruto. What is it?"

"I was wondering if I could convince you to train one of my students in kenjutsu. I'm going to be away from Konoha for a while on a solo mission," I explained. Hayate glanced back at Team Seven, noting Sasuke's sword.

"The Uchiha?"

"Yeah, Sasuke. I've given him my old katana, Kamisora, but I think a straight sword would be better for him. I was going to talk to you about that as well." Hayate studied the Uchiha for a while, watching how he moved. "I'll really owe you a favor," I coaxed. "Kiiroi Kitsune favor…"

He sighed, smiling as he coughed.

"All right, I'll help him," he agreed.

"Thanks! Don't worry about having to train him all the time, he knows he can go to Zabuza and myself when I return." Hayate only nodded and walked away. I chuckled at the ever-sick ninja and walked back to Team Seven.


"Naruto-sensei, can you help me with my medical ninjutsu?" Sakura asked, still fuming after her tie with Ino. I shook my head sadly.

"I can't, I'm going away for a while," I said apologetically. Sakura pouted.

"How long is a while?" Haku asked. I shrugged.

"I'm not sure. I'm being sent on a mission, it could take anywhere from two days till after the Chuunin Exams. I'll try to be back as soon as possible to help you prepare, but I can't promise anything." Sasuke looked at me with an expression I couldn't identify.

"What kind of mission?"

"I'm going to track down and bring back two exceptionally powerful ninja: Tsunade the Slug Sannin and Jiraiya the Toad Sage. Finding Tsunade is the main objective, finding Jiraiya is more personal for me." Sakura glanced up at me, confused, and I sighed. "Jiraiya is my godfather. My father named me after the protagonist of Jiraiya's first book, Tales of a Gutsy Ninja. On the other hand, Tsunade is perhaps the best medical ninja in history, better than me in a lot of things. I'm going to bring her back so she can be your teacher, Sakura, while I focus on Haku."

Looking appeased, Sakura backed down. Sasuke wasn't that easily assuaged, staring at me with that unknown expression.

"What about your wedding? Does Hinata know that you might not be back in time?"

"I'll be back for the wedding, that I can promise. Hina-chan's necklace has a Hiraishin seal on the back of it. All she has to do is send a little chakra to the charm before the wedding and I'll come right away. Speaking of which," I pulled out a scroll from my Sage coat. Unsealing it, I took out three necklaces, each with a different charm. The first was a wolf, the second a snake, and the third a small slug, for Haku, Sasuke, and Sakura respectively. I passed each their necklace, turning the charms over to show the Hiraishin seal. "If you ever need me, concentrate chakra into the seal and I will feel it."

"Why is mine a snake?" Sasuke asked, anxious and confused, probably remembering our encounter in the Forest of Death.

"I picked the charms based on your natural summons, the summons that will be easiest for you to summon on a regular basis. My natural summons are foxes. I'm not sure if that's because I'm Kyuu's jinchuuriki or is that would've been my normal summons. I'm like a fox; I protect what I hold special and I have the senses of a fox. Sasuke, you are similar to a snake. You are strong offensively, making up for low defenses. You rely on your own speed to watch your back, you don't let your team intervene if you think you can handle the challenge. You have a more subtle chakra signature than the girls and would probably make a good spy. Sakura, don't get grossed out but you are similar to slugs. That's not an insult; slugs have a strong defense to balance out their lack of raw power. Slugs are the natural summons of Tsunade and often help her in her medical ninjutsu. Haku, you are loyal and cunning, two attributes associated with the wolf. Wolves do not have as good senses as foxes nor are they as fast, but they are stronger in terms of raw power. If you sign the wolf summoning contract, I assume that your senses will heighten, just as mine did when I signed the fox contract.

"I know where all three contracts are at this moment. The wolf contract is in Ame but I may be able to pull a few strings. The holder of that contract is a friend of mine. The slug contract is currently held by Senju Tsunade, assuming she hasn't gambled it away. When I find her, I'll see if she'll let you sign the contract, Sakura. Unfortunately, I can't get the snake contract. If things go according to plan, I should have it in my possession at the end of the Chuunin Exams. If not, I'm not sure I'll be able to find it."

"He has it, doesn't he?" Sasuke asked quietly. I nodded.

"Yes. I'll try to get it but I can't make any promises. If he doesn't tell me where it is before I kill him, I'll have to track down his subordinates. Orochimaru has bases scattered all over the continent; it could be in any one of two dozen," I said quietly. Sasuke nodded slowly, no anger in his eyes. I stretched. "I'm going to go pack. Things to do, people to see, other people to threaten," I smiled. "Oh, Sasuke, I convinced Hayate to teach you in kenjutsu. Ignore his coughing, he's an expert in kenjutsu. If he changes your blade, let him. I think a straighter sword will work better for your fighting style. Ja ne."

Haku grabbed my arm and we Hiraishined back to the Namikaze manor. I grabbed the already packed scrolls off of my bed and put them in various pockets. Glancing at the large summoning contract leaning on my wall, I sighed and attached it to my lower back. I glanced in the mirror and I smiled. If I was four years older, I'd look identical from how I looked during the Pain invasion. My eyes flashed almost warningly as I unsealed my yellow mask. I turned away from my reflection as I tied the mask on over my face, ready to leave.


~One Week Later~

I glanced at the cards in my hand then around the round table. Knowing how Tsunade thought, I left Konoha for the first poker tournament in the largest gambling town I could find. Sure enough, the blonde kunoichi sat across from me, narrowing her eyes as I raised. She was silent, glancing in between my mask and her cards before she raised, matching me and then some.

"I never thought the Kiiroi Kitsune was a gambler," she said after a long silence. I shrugged and smiled under my mask.

"I'm not," I said, glancing at the other players. "I'm on a mission. If I wanted to find you, I needed to go gambling," I smirked. Tsunade tightened her hand on her cards, the other hand twitching towards a kunai.

"You got guts, kid. Not many people would take a mission to find me," she smiled evilly. I shrugged.

"I requested this mission. I'm too much like my dad: don't know when to quit but usually get what we want."

"And who is your father?" she asked, going all in. I pushed the rest of my chips to the center and smiled under my mask.

"Wouldn't you like to know? I'll give you a hint: he was a hero." Tsunade raised an eyebrow, scoffing.

"I've had enough of heroes. They never last," she said, glancing around her as the other players folded. I sighed sadly.

"I'm sorry for your loss, both of them. They didn't deserve that," I said. The dealer nodded at Tsunade and she showed her cards to reveal a straight. The dealer looked at me and I showed my royal flush. Silence fell and Tsunade stood from the table.

"What do you know about that?" she yelled at me. I stood, leaving the chips behind. "You have no-" She was cut off as I walked up to her, invading her personal space.

"Come with me," I said, spinning on my heel and walking out of the casino. Tsunade followed grudgingly, taking my chips with her. I smiled at the Slug Sannin. Some things never change.

"What do you want, Kiiroi Kitsune?" We stood in a dirty alley, away from the town. I sighed again.

"My father was a hero. He died fighting for what he believed in, just like Dan and Nawaki did."

"Then your father was a fool," she spat. I moved my hand to my face, lifting the mask away from my features. Tsunade gasped at the resemblance.

"Don't insult my father. I'm only here asking you to do me a favor. One Kiiroi Kitsune favor is worth a lot more than the chips in your hand and you can't lose it."

"You're a kid!"

"No, I am a ninja. The second I put on this headband, I wasn't a child anymore. I am a jounin in the Village Hidden in the Leaves. I respect you, Tsunade. Don't tell me I was wrong to."

"What kind of favor?" she asked warily. I smiled.

"Two weeks of your time. In my genin team, I have one student who has the most potential as a medical ninja that I've seen in a long time. So much that I don't trust myself to teach her correctly. I want you to spend two weeks with her before the final exam of the Chuunin Exams. If she doesn't meet your standards, you can forget it ever happened."

"What's her name?"

"Haruno Sakura. She is twelve years old, a rookie genin. She knows the mystical palm technique and how to help chakra exhaustion. Sakura has earth natured chakra and can perform the earth dome prison, even though it drains her at her current level of chakra. She has the best chakra control I've seen in my travels, which is saying a lot. Also, her natural summons are slugs."

At the mention of her summons, Tsunade smiled.

"You should've said that first. So, let me get this straight: I go back to Konoha with you and spend two weeks training some kunoichi in medical ninjutsu?"

"Basically. If you agree, you, Shizune, and Tonton can all stay in the Namikaze compound. Right now, the only people living in the entire compound are myself, Yuki Haku, and Momochi Zabuza."

"The Demon of the Bloody Mist?"

"The former. I… convinced the council to grant them Konoha citizenship. Zabuza is currently a jounin and Haku, his former student, is a genin in my team."

"Who's on your team?" she asked, walking back to the street.

"Well, at the beginning of the year there were an uneven number of genin. Right after my graduation from the Academy, I took the jounin test. I defeated four jounin and became a jounin sensei alongside Hatake Kakashi. Our team only had two genin, Uchiha Sasuke and Haruno Sakura, until our first C-ranked mission. The mission turned A-rank when we encountered Zabuza, my old kenjutsu teacher. He agreed to stop hunting the man we were guarding and came back to Konoha with us. Haku joined the team, Team Seven, for the length of the Chuunin Exams."

We maintained silence for the rest of the walk to Tsunade's hotel. Walking into the room, I spotted Shizune carrying Tonton.

"Shizune this is…" she glanced at me and I remembered that she didn't know Kiiroi Kitsune's real name.

"My name is Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto. I'm a Konoha jounin. I'm here to escort you back to Konoha until the end of the Chuunin Exams." Shizune nodded confusedly, distracted when Tonton began to squirm.

"Tonton… What's wrong?" she asked the pig. Tonton glanced at me and squealed. I took a step back apologetically.

"I'm sorry, it's my fault. Don't worry about that. Most animals react like that around me," I said, scratching the back of my head. Shizune looked confused while Tsunade noted the whiskers on my face and nodded slowly.

"Naruto… Are you the-" she began to ask. I glanced at her and nodded.

"Yep. You don't have to worry about me going ballistic, I improved the seal so he can't take over." I didn't mention that he wouldn't, assuming that the explanation would be long and tiring. "There is just one stop we need to make on the way back to Konoha."

"Where?" Tsunade asked, trying to calm the pig.

"I need to talk to Jiraiya, he's beginning to poke around my spy network. Right now, he's in-"

"Hot Springs Country?" Tsunade guessed. I nodded and she reddened angrily. "Pervert."

"Tell me about it, I was raised by Kakashi," I said rolling my eyes. "Kakashi thinks Ero-sennin is a good author and he wasn't talking about Tales of a Gutsy Ninja."

Shizune nodded in understanding and Tsunade reached for a bottle of sake. I sighed. Some things never change.

~Two Days Later~

"Heh heh heh." Ero-sennin's perverted giggle was picked up by my ears. My palm flew to my forehead and Tsunade growled.

"Where is he?" she snarled. I pointed towards the women's spa and Tsunade rolled up her sleeve, ready to beat the crap out of her former teammate. Minutes later, screams of pain echoed off of the water. Shizune and I winced in unison.

"You- stupid- perverted-" Tsunade growled. I walked around the fence and saw the Toad Sage, cowering as Tsunade raised her fist. I cleared my throat and she glared at me.

"I need to talk to him alive, Tsunade," I said, neglecting the obaachan out of respect for my life and safety. She growled but stood down. Jiraiya glanced at the fence behind him and chuckled, sitting up.

"Kiiroi Kitsune? Why are you hanging around Tsunade-hime?" he asked. I stalked over to him and put my hand over the hole in the fence.

"Jiraiya, the self proclaimed world's biggest pervert. I should kick your ass," I said clearly. I grabbed his shirt with both hands and pulled him up. His eyebrows drew themselves together and Tsunade grinned.

"Can I know what I did before I kick your ass?" he asked, smirking. I raised an eyebrow, glancing at the Slug Sannin.

"He's cheeky. I'm surprised you didn't kill him," I said. Tsunade chuckled and shrugged.

"Hiruzen-sensei was against it."

"Funny, he didn't say a thing to me," I said, releasing the toad sage. "I'm not here to fight you. I'm here to tell you to stop screwing with my spy network. I'm a Konoha nin, your ally."

"And why should I believe that?" he chuckled. My hand went to my mask once more, taking it off. Jiraiya's eyes widened as he recognized my spiky blonde hair and blue eyes. "Naruto?"

"Hey, Ero-sennin," I chuckled, my hand at the back of my neck. Shizune laughed behind Tsunade as Jiraiya's jaw fell.

"Bet he didn't expect that," she whispered. I chuckled and grabbed the man by his hair, pulling him away from the spas before he could do anymore 'research'.

"So why do you want me in Konoha?" Jiraiya asked, sitting on the couch of our hotel room. I shook my head tiredly.

"I'm getting married. No you can't come to the bachelor's party, the guys already threw it. No, I won't tell you anything that happened. No, if someone else tells you, you cannot use it in your books. Next question," I said expectantly. Jiraiya's mouth closed, thinking.

"Who's the girl?"

"Hyuuga Hinata-chan, the eldest of the Main house," I said. Jiraiya gave a low whistle.

"I'm not sure if I should say good job or good luck… A Main house Hyuuga?" he shrugged. I shook my head, ready to defend her.

"She's different from the other Hyuuga. She cares about people that her father wouldn't. She wants to change the Hyuuga clan into something better than it is now. She knows all about Kyuubi and understands. Kyuu even let her sign his summoning contract," I said. Jiraiya's eyes bulged.

"She signed a demon summoning contract? That should be impossible!"

"It isn't impossible, just unlikely. I signed the contract when I was… four? I don't remember. Kakashi was there in case anything happened," I said, reassuring my godfather. "The reason demon contracts have such a bad reputation is because the people who sign them don't understand the rules. Unlike the other summons where you sign them and then get the approval of the boss, you need to get the approval of the boss before you sign it. If you don't, the scroll will act defensively and protect itself from you, most likely killing you in the process."

"So… You're friendly with the Kyuubi?"

"Best friends. He coached me through Sage mode when I was younger." Once again, Jiraiya's eyes popped out of his head.

"You- you know-"

"Senjutsu? Yes. It's strange though… There are different side effects for my Sage mode and yours'. Instead of getting a few fox-like traits, which I already have, I fully transform into a demon fox. It's strange…"

"Demon fox… you… how… traits…" Jiraiya had had enough. His brain began to melt and I sighed, glancing at the kunoichi. Not wanting to have to wait for him to recover, I pushed chakra to my hand. My fingertips lit up with green energy and I poked him in the forehead. Jiraiya jumped at the chakra and pulled out a kunai. I jumped back, drawing Mizuchi in an arc to deflect the projectile.

"Better?" I asked, sheathing my katana. Jiraiya glanced up before nodding. "Good. Everyone grab your stuff, we're leaving now," I ordered.

Narrowing their eyes, the two Sannin collected their belongs. Shizune picked up Tonton and walked over to me, the pig squealing in protest. Sighing, I hide Kyuubi's chakra as best I could. The pig immediately calmed down and Shizune looked at me, surprised.

"What'd you do?"

"Hide Kyuu's chakra. I can't do it for very long, but I can maintain it long enough for a Hiraishin back to Konoha." At mention of my father's signature jutsu, the two Sannin stopped and turned to me. "Yes, I can do the Hiraishin. Hurry up, I want to get back before Anko goes looking for Orochimaru."

Again, I said the wrong thing. Jiraiya clenched his fist and Tsunade narrowed her eyes almost worriedly.

"Orochimaru?" she asked, looking for confirmation. I nodded slowly.

"He attacked during the second part of the Chuunin Exams. He's looking for his next body." Looking a lot less calm, they began to gather random belongings from the room. When they finished, I held out my arm and each shifted their bundles to their other arm or their back. "Close your eyes. It's a little disorienting."

Not obeying my own rules, I kept my eyes open as I concentrated on the Hiraishin kunai I had left in my backyard, a short distance from the porch. I tried to make the Hiraishin as fast as possible, in between blinks. I shut my eyes for half a second and pushed us through space. When I opened my eyes, I saw the sunset reflecting off my pool.

"Naruto-sensei!" I heard a voice shout. Used to the familiar greeting, I ducked before I could get tackled to the ground. Standing, I smiled at Haku, now glaring at me from the ground.

"It's nice to see you too," I chuckled. Haku stood with as much dignity as she could, finally noticing the three other ninja.

"And these are…?"

"Oh, yeah. Yuki Haku, I'd like to introduce you to Jiraiya, the Toad Sage, Senju Tsunade, the Slug Sannin, and Shizune, Tsunade's apprentice."

"I don't think she's been my apprentice for a while," Tsunade said, looking at the raven haired girl fondly. Shizune blushed, hugging Tonton tighter.

"And, that, is Tonton," I said, pointing to the pig. Haku nodded and smiled at the ninja before looking back at me.

"Sasuke is training with Zabuza-san. Sakura-chan and Ino are in the clearing with Hinata-chan getting ready for the wedding," Haku reported. I nodded, still smiling.

"Okay, then. Jiraiya, I'm trusting you to tell Hiruzen that I'm back with Tsunade and Shizune. Mission successful and all that. I'll give him the details later. Shizune-chan, you can go inside and pick out any of the rooms on the second or third floor, just don't go in the doors that have Kyuubi drawn on them." Shizune and Jiraiya nodded and left, leaving myself, Haku, and Tsunade.

"What about me?"

"You are coming with Haku and I to meet your new student," I said, holding out my arm again. The two kunoichi held on and I focus on the Hiraishin I had placed on the gazebo.

Opening my eyes to the clearing, I smiled at the familiar magic. Spotting pink hair among a group of girls, I shouted for Sakura.

"Oi, Sakura!" I called. Sakura's head shot up and she glanced around the clearing. Seeing me, she grinned excitedly before running to meet us.

"Naruto-sensei, I thought you wouldn't be back for at least another week," she said, hugging me. I chuckled and pulled back.

"The mission was easier than I thought it'd be. Haruno Sakura, meet Senju Tsunade, your new shishou."

Chapter Text

Sakura stood still as Tsunade circled around her, appraising her. Finishing her circle, she nodded at me.

"You're right, she has potential… Are you sure about her summons? Slug summoners are pretty rare."

"I'm positive," I said, nodding back. I glanced at Sakura's necklace and frowned, remembering something. "I guess I forgot to tell you… Sakura, bite your thumb and put blood on the necklace charm. You too, Haku."

The two genin looked a little skeptical and confused but I nodded encouragingly. The two took off their necklaces with a glance towards me. Biting their thumbs, the kunoichi held their hands over the charm, a single drop of blood landing onto the blood steel. The kunoichi watched as the metal absorbed the crimson liquid as it changed color. Sakura's slug turned a vivid pink with emerald spots, Haku's wolf darkened to match her hair and eyes. Studying the charms, Tsunade frowned.

"Is that blood steel?"

"Hai. You've heard about it?" I asked. Tsunade nodded then shrugged.

"Bits and pieces. It absorbs the blood and changes its form to match the DNA. It's supposed to be extremely rare… How'd you get it?"

"It's rare in the human world. Demon foxes specialize in mining and forging it. All I had to do was order the charms, Hiraishin seal and all, and the court smith took care of the rest." I shrugged walking away from the group and towards Hina-chan. I hugged her from behind and she laughed.

"Naruto-kun! I thought you were on a mission," she smiled. I shrugged, pointing at the Slug Sannin.

"It was easier than I thought it'd be to convince her. Jiraiya is here too; he went to tell Hiruzen that we're here."

'He went or you ordered him too?"

"A little bit of both," I smiled deviously. Hinata-chan chuckled in my arms.

"Does Kakashi know you brought Shizune back so early?"

"I just got back," I said, feigning indignation. Feeling the truth in my thoughts, Hinata-chan smiled. "Besides, I think I should give him less time to compose himself. The less notice he has, the less time he'll have to panic." Hina-chan only laughed. I released her from my arms and took her hand instead. She smiled, tightening her grip.

"How's the rest of the world? Anything big and out of the ordinary happening out there? Genin don't hear much," Hina-chan pouted. I chuckled at her mock sadness.

"Nothing really happened. I didn't even get in a fight. It was pretty boring, actually," I said, now being dragged away from the small crowd of people. Recognizing faces, I realized that everyone in attendance was either a groomsmen or a bridesmaid.

"All I've been doing is drilling the gentle fist," Hina-chan complained lightly. "Father is still under the impression that I'm still his weak little heiress."

"Guess you'll have to prove him wrong and beat everyone left."

"Shouldn't be too hard, Gaara killed Dosu again to maintain the timeline. I only have to beat three people." I rolled my eyes, remembering the order from the last exam.

"Your first opponent will be Haku. If you beat her, you fight either Sasuke or Gaara, both of whom have been trained by me although I'd put money on Gaara. That leaves you with either Temari or Shikamaru. Shikamaru would be worn out if he beats Temari so he shouldn't be very difficult. On the other hand, Temari will be tag teaming with Sandstorm. They won't be easy."

"Then I'll summon. Yonaka-chan has some very fun fire jutsu on top of weapons," Hina-chan smiled expectantly. I chuckled at her expression and glanced at the assembled people behind me.

"How's the preparations going?"

"We're almost done. All we're waiting for is the end of the Exams. I'm pretty sure Hiruzen is putting in a good word for me with the Daimyo," she shrugged.

"I doubt you'll need it," I said, a hand on the seal I shared with her. I sighed as Hina-chan's eyes flashed with worry before she checked my emotions. I raised an eyebrow and she blushed slightly.

"Sorry it's just-"

"I know," I chuckled before getting serious. "I don't know how Sasuke managed it until the tower let alone the preliminaries. I could barely stand."

"He was an avenger," she muttered, watching Sasuke walk into the clearing, sliding Kamisora back into its sheath. "You really helped him."

"Not enough. He still wants to kill his brother. I'll eventually have to tell him why Itachi did it." I knew that Sasuke was always going to prefer vengeance over security. He took the burden of his clan's hate, directing it at his current enemy. Unless he found out the truth about his brother, he'd never be satisfied until Itachi fell dead in front of him. Even then, I couldn't promise that he'd stay in Konoha to protect us, not after I let Itachi go so easily.

Sasuke's smile evaporated when he felt the atmosphere surrounding Hina-chan and myself. His eyebrows met in concern and his face fell into a frown.

"Did something-"

"No, we're fine. Just… hoping for the best during the Chuunin Exams. I found the woman I wanted to be Sakura's shishou," I said, nodding at Tsunade and Sakura as they talked. Sasuke glanced at them and nodded. I turned back to Sasuke, smiling. "Haku will be doing more training with Koyuki and Kakashi. That means I'm free to train you whenever you want. I can help you with your Sharingan as much as Kakashi can, I can begin to train you in my personal taijutsu style, the warau akuma, you could start on what I learned from the samurai or I could teach you more advanced jutsu. Pick two; I don't think we'll have enough time to get a lot done with only two weeks, but I'm sure that it'd help in the Exams."

"Can you show me the warau akuma?" Sasuke asked. I chuckled as his hand twitched to his leg, to the femur I had cracked with my taijutsu.

"Sure. What else? Sharingan, jutsu, or kenjutsu? Keep in mind who you might be facing and their abilities: Gaara has perfect control over sand and can summon raccoons; Hinata-chan has the Byakugan, gentle fist, the beginnings of the warau akuma, and can summon foxes; Haku can use her ice techniques and senbon; Kankuro is a master puppet user; Temari uses her battle fan to control wind with her wind natured chakra; Shino uses bugs; and Shikamaru can control you using his clan's shadow jutsu." Sasuke thought about the pros and cons of each genin before nodding.

"Sharingan," he said, surprising me. I was sure he would have chosen jutsu. I smiled and nodded.

"We'll need to go to the Forest of Death for the warau akuma. We can practice your Sharingan in one of the Namikaze fields."

"Let's work on the warau akuma first," he said, nodding.

"Are you sure you don't need me?" I asked Hina-chan. She laughed, turning back to the groomsmen and bridesmaids.

"Go train, Naruto-kun. Love you," she said, making the gathered shinobi all smile. I smiled back, holding my arm to Sasuke.

"Love you too," I said, Hiraishining away to my primary clearing. Just as I released Sasuke, I heard a loud growl emanating from the trees. I stood in front of Sasuke and returned the growl, backed by a wave of killing intent. I smirked as the animal ran into the shelter of the thick trees. I glanced at Sasuke, frozen. I chuckled as he recovered.

"After the Chuunin Exams, I'm going to teach all of Team Seven how to deal with killing intent. You need to at least get used to my chakra and Kyuubi's or you could become a liability on the battlefield. But back to the present, the warau akuma! The first thing you need to understand about this style is that it is designed to destroy the enemy with quick attacks. If I attacked you right now, I could kill you any one of thirty or so ways. Usually I only use the early steps, designed to incapacitate the enemy, in combat.

"First, before any of that, how heavy are your weights right now and when did you last up the weights?" I asked. Sasuke thought about it before answering.

"220. Fifty on each leg, forty five on each arm, and another thirty on my chest. I increased the weights last Monday."

"Good, I wouldn't teach this if you didn't have at least two hundred," I nodded. "Next, deactivate your weights and attack me. I need to see how you fight. Remember, if you want to-"

"Hit you I need to aim to kill, I know," he said, getting into a taijutsu pose. He activated his Sharingan as I activated my demon eyes and shifted into the warau akuma stance.

"Begin," I said, smiling as he blurred. I could still see him, each of his punches and kicks was noted and avoided. At the end of ten minutes, I hadn't thrown a single punch and Sasuke was leaning against a tree, breathing heavily. I nodded at him. "Leave the weights off for now. Take a break and relax, we'll pick up in ten minutes. This style is a little more demanding than most others. It's worth it though, I've beat Gai using the early steps," I said, jumping to my favorite tree branch without a running start. Sasuke stared up at me before walking up the side of the tree to sit on Hina-chan's branch. Looking out at Konoha, I gave my fox-like grin. Sasuke was going to hate this training.


The sun was almost at the horizon when Sasuke's eyes rolled into his head. I Shunshined behind him, catching him before he hit the rocky ground. I smiled, proud that he had lasted so long. During Hina-chan's first lesson, back in our past, she couldn't take more than a few hours for the first few lessons. I shifted Sasuke to my back and walked home through the village, the path becoming unfamiliar.

The village was a peaceful chaos, routine and well rehearsed. Children laughed, running in the streets until adults called them inside for dinner. Neighbors greeted each other as they recognized the others' faces. A few people looked at Sasuke with concern until I explained that we'd been training. Reassured, they smiled and said their goodbyes, waving as they walked away.

I was just passing the Hokage Tower when I saw a square rock behind me. I sighed, chuckling to myself at the Sandaime's grandson.

"Come on out, Konohamaru. I know you, Udon, and Moegi are hiding in the 'rock'." A small tricolor explosion erupted from the box, the smoke lifting away to show the three Academy students coughing as they knelt on the ground.

"Heh, just what I expect from Boss," Konohamaru coughed. "Too much gunpowder…"

"I can't play now, guys. I have to get Sasuke back home," I said, glancing at the Uchiha's head now leaning against my shoulder. Konohamaru's eyes brightened.

"Did you beat him up? Can we watch next time?" he asked, excited. I sighed in exasperation.

"Sorry, Konohamaru, we weren't fighting. I was training him in my taijutsu style for the Chuunin Exams. As for watching, you can't. I can't let you watch us train in this style. I invented this style, I'm only showing Sasuke because I think he might need it."

"So? I might need it, niichan," Konohamaru whined.

"You won't. Maybe if you work really hard I'll teach you something when you take the Chuunin Exams."

"But that won't be for years!"

"Then you have a long time to get ready. Sasuke's been training his entire life. He didn't last a full day training with me. The harder you train now, the more I'll teach you later, okay?" Konohamaru's eyes lit up and he grinned at me.

"Yeah! Let's go train!" he shouted, dragging his best friends by the wrist. I mouthed an apology to them. I glanced at Sasuke, still unconscious, and resumed the walk home.


Kakashi sat on the couch, expecting us. When he spotted Sasuke, he sighed.

"What did you start him on this time?"

"Flexibility and then the first two stances for the warau akuma," I reported, laying Sasuke down on the second couch.

"You're teaching him the laughing demon? Are you sure that's a good idea? You've defeated-"

"I know who I beat up with this technique. I'm not going to take him too far in, only enough to improve his defense and learn how to knock people out. He's already having trouble adjusting to the change in style. He needs to improve his speed before it gets too dangerous to teach him more. Also, I doubt he'll have a lot of time to learn the laughing demon. I'm also going to help him with his Sharingan and Hayate, Zabuza, and I are all going to help his kenjutsu."

"Don't pull a Danzo," Kakashi warned, referring to method Danzo unsuccessfully used to make him stay in the village: dangle a new dangerous technique each time he gets bored.

"I won't," I promised my former sensei. I yawned and Kakashi raised an eyebrow.

"When was the last time you slept?"

"What day is today? Wednesday… I think I- no…. Last Tuesday, maybe? I don't know, I was on the move a lot."

"Doing what?"

"Assembling the troops. I went to most of the villages again under a flag of truce. Kumo and Kiri have agreed to help us if we need it. The Tsuchikage said he wouldn't back Orochimaru up. The others didn't want to get involved but they promised not to side with Oto."

"How many favors do you owe everyone?"

"Not that many. A lot of countries owed me favors from odd jobs Gaara and I've done. I explained what happened the last time we were in Kumo, why I had talked to Yugito, and the Raikage understood. Turns out he thought I was the one trying to steal the jinchuuriki. Either way, I told him a little about the Akatsuki and we parted under neutral terms. Considering A's temper, I think I did pretty good. All I owe Kumo now is a spar with B."

"Impressive," Kakashi chuckled. The laughter died as Shizune walked into the room. I watched, amused, as Kakashi's visible eye widened and he fought back a blush under his mask.

"Oh yeah, Shizune-neechan, meet Kakashi. Kakashi, this is Shizune. She came to Konoha with Tsunade-obaachan," I introduced. Shizune shifted Tonton to her left arm, holding her right hand out to Kakashi. I elbowed the jounin and the ribs and he snapped out of it, shaking her hand.

"When my parents died, Kakashi took me in," I explained to Shizune.

"You weren't exactly helpless, Naruto," he said, embarrassed. I raised an eyebrow at my former sensei.

"I was half a day old. I'm pretty sure that is the definition of helpless. If you hadn't adopted me, I'd probably have been put in an orphanage. Could you imagine that? I might have still been a genin," I said, my wide eyes clashing with my smirk. Kakashi chuckled and stood up.

"Okay, okay. I just wanted to make sure both of you came out of the forest," he said, stretching. I grabbed his wrist, smiling deviously.

"You can't leave now, it's almost sundown. Stay for dinner, at least," I said, widening my eyes innocently. Shizune fell for it, melting. Seeing her face, Kakashi's head leaned back tiredly.

"If you're having ramen, I'm leaving," he threatened, serious. I grinned and pushed him into the couch before jogging into the kitchen.

"Let me see what I can whip up… You two play nice," I smirked over Shizune's head. I shut the kitchen door behind me and made two shadow clones. One of them smirked and crept to the door silently, ready to listen in on the two. The second nodded at me and moved towards the fridge, half a step behind me. I opened the fridge door and glanced at the stocked shelves and drawers. "Hmm… How about…."

"Chicken?" my clone asked. I nodded and pulled the ingredients out of the fridge. I glanced at my clone, thinking.

"You get started on dessert, I'll take care of dinner," I said, pulling a pan out of a cupboard and grabbing a cutting board.

"Hai, Boss," he said, searching the cupboards.

"Dinner's on the table!" I shouted through the living room door. Everyone was now gathered in the living room, talking while I cooked dinner. One by one, Kakashi, Shizune, Tsunade, Jiraiya, Zabuza, Haku, and Sasuke walked in. Each took a chair at the long table and I brought over the food: broiled chicken, pasta salad, and corn on the cob.

Already having eaten my cooking, Kakashi, Zabuza, Sasuke, and Haku all served themselves and picked up their forks. Haku smiled, standing and pouring herself a glass of water.

"You guys are lucky," she said, watching the three additions to the table glance at the food warily. "Naruto doesn't cook for just anyone."

"That's not true, I cook for you guys all the time," I protested, joining Haku by the cabinets. I grabbed glasses and poured everyone their usual drinks: coffee for Zabuza and myself, orange juice for Kakashi, and milk for Sasuke. I carried the glasses over two at a time and depositing them in front of the correct people.

"You only cook for us when Hinata-chan is here," Haku countered playfully. I rolled my eyes at the Yuki and walked back to the cabinets. Taking out three glasses, I poured sake for Tsunade and Jiraiya and orange juice for Shizune. I brought them their drinks and Jiraiya looked at his glass warily.

"You can relax," I chuckled. "I got this in Rice Country before I found Tsunade. I thought she'd need a little more persuading to come back to Konoha. I was planning on using it as a bargaining chip but I thought you might appreciate it now."

"Good boy," Tsunade said, reaching for her glass. Shizune slapped her hand, picked up the glass and carried it to the sink, pouring it out and filling it with water.

"I told you to go easy on the sake," Shizune chided. Tsunade grumbled but accepted the water. I chuckled at the exchange, serving myself some chicken. Watching the others eat hungrily, Tsunade glanced at the food on her plate. Taking the first bite of the three arrivals, her eyebrows went up in approval and she nodded at the other two.

"It's good," she said, sounding surprised. Sasuke scoffed.

"Of course it's good. Naruto's one of the best cooks I know," he said, pointing to me with his fork. I chuckled.

"Stop, you're making me blush," I said, sarcastic. Sasuke only laughed, returning to his food. I shrugged at the two Sannin and Shizune. "When you're on the road or living on your own a lot, you pick up a few things."

The rest of dinner was passed in the regular conversation and storytelling, the two Sannin adding their fair share. When it came time for dessert, I chuckled as Haku leaned forward.

"Relax, Haku. It's just-"

"Just your super crazy amazingly addictive triple chocolate cake?" she raised an eyebrow and I shrugged.

"It is triple chocolate cake; I don't know about the rest of it," I said, pulling the cake out of the fridge. I grabbed eight dessert plates, balancing them in one hand as I held the cake with the other. I placed the cake down in the center of the table and stared at Haku sternly. "I want this cake to be here, in one piece, when I come back with a knife. If it isn't…" I let my voice drift off threateningly and Haku stared at the cake. I smirked and grabbed a knife from the carving set.

I cut the cake into eight pieces, one slice each. I put each slice on the readily offered plates and sat down with my own piece. Glancing at it, I realized I wasn't really in a chocolate mood. Noticing the self disappointment in my eyes, Haku brightened.

"No, you can't have my cake," I said sternly, the ice user wilting. Hey, Kyuu. Want some cake?

Your super crazy amazingly addictive triple chocolate cake? he asked, licking his lips as I stared at him, open mouthed.

When did everyone decide to name it that? It's just cake!

No, it's not. Summon meeeeee, I want some caaaaakkkkkeeeee.

Control your chakra, this is my house, I said firmly. He nodded and bit his paw in preparation.

"Kuchiyose no jutsu!" I bit my thumb, placing my palm on the wooden floor. Kyuubi appeared, small and digging his teeth into his paw. I put my right hand on his forehead and absorbed his excess chakra, once again sealing it into the seal on my forehead.

At the sight of the demon lord, Tsunade jumped, almost dropping the last of her cake. I cracked my neck, the chakra becoming a part of my skin. I picked up the plate and put it on the ground in front of my vulpine friend.

"Watch your tails," I warned. "I like this kitchen, I know where everything is."

I'm sure the all powerful Kyuubi no Kitsune, feared everywhere, would have answered if he wasn't busy wolfing down my cake. I sighed and sat back in my chair, scratching his head absentmindedly. I glanced up at the table, only to find everyone staring at me.

"You just summoned-" Jiraiya was cut short by an angry kunoichi.

"So you give him the cake? I thought we were supposed to be friends, sensei," she huffed, crossing her arms.

"Relax, I'll make more cake after the Chuunin Exams. Hina-chan wants the wedding cake to be my 'super crazy amazingly addictive' triple chocolate cake," I said, appeasing the former missing-nin. Her eyes brightened and her face broke into a smile. I glanced at Tsunade, Jiraiya, and Shizune, all stunned into silence. "I'm the demon fox summoner, Kyuubi is the boss. It's pretty logical when you think about it."

"How is that even… Isn't he sealed into you?"

"Yes. And, if I wanted to, I could pull him back into the seal just by touching him. Kyuu's and my chakra work in two different cycles with one intersection. Using the intersection, he can loan me chakra without endangering his psyche locked away into my subconscious. This intersection also allowed me to improve the seal my father created. I can use my own chakra to define the intersection between our chakras. Technically, I shouldn't need to go through the seals to summon Kyuu, but it's a lot faster than physically separating our chakras. It's safer too. If Kyuu's chakra gets too far away from my own, neither of us will be able to control it and he'll go back to being the mindless killing machine that attacked Konoha twelve years ago."

"Thanks, kit. Glad to know you care," he scoffed, his fur now matted with chocolate frosting. He licked his lips.

"Just be happy I let you out for cake," I chuckled, scratching behind his ears. Against his wishes, the fearsome Kyuubi no Yokou's eyes closed in contentment. "If you want, I converted one of the rooms on this floor into a kennel of sorts. You can sleep in there if you want to stay out longer. Most of my mortal summons live there."

"I'll check it out later," he shrugged, shrinking a few inches before he jumped onto my lap, a tail slapping me in the face weakly. "How's everyone doing?"

"Pretty good," Haku shrugged, smiling at the demon. Zabuza shrugged.

"Learning the warau akuma," Sasuke volunteered quietly.

"Yeah, I saw. I think you should increase the weights on your legs, kit. The warau akuma is more a show of stealth than raw strength. Don't believe Naruto, he didn't invent the style. I did."

"Um, how- How'd you do that? Not to be insensitive, but you're a fox," Jiraiya pointed out. Kyuubi glanced in my direction and I nodded. He jumped off of my lap and trembled before he transformed. Instead of shrinking into a mortal fox, Kyuu grew taller, his fur sliding back into his skin. A few seconds later, he stood at 6'5", a human.

"Humans and my race are not very different. To keep ourselves separate, for both our safety and your own, we have a number of demon foxes and kitsune trained extensively in a human form. Most do not prefer these forms, they are generally weaker than their natural forms, but a number of demon foxes live in your shinobi villages undercover. We have our own… spy network, as you would say. We monitor humans but usually stay uninvolved."

"Usually?" Tsunade asked, raising an eyebrow. Kyuu glanced at me, his now black human eyes asking for me to take this one. I nodded and he transformed back into his natural form, his point made.

"There is a difference between kitsune and demon foxes. Demon foxes have a distinctive strength and lineage. The number of tails alludes to the strength of the fox and a demon fox always has two demon parents. Kitsune can be thought of as a subspecies of demon fox. Kitsune have no definite natural form, both human and fox forms are equally comfortable and usually similar in power. No matter how old or strong they become, they will always have just one tail in their fox form. The biggest difference between kitsune and demon foxes is their parentage; demon foxes must have two demon parents. Kitsune are… half bloods, I guess. They are the results of human/demon fox relationships. A kitsune is rare to find, not many foxes hold humans in a high enough regard to mate," I explained. "In my entire life, I've only seen four true kitsune, one of which is a very good friend of mine."

"And the rest?" Haku asked curiously. I lowered my gaze.

"Humans fear what they don't understand. If they spot a fox transform into a human, or vice versa, most will not hesitate to murder the kit," Kyuubi said, growling at the wooden floor. The table fell silent. After a moment, I glanced up, smiling.

"We can't change the past," I said, sharing a smile with Kakashi. "The warau akuma aside, anything new happen in the village while I was gone?"

"Not much," Kakashi shrugged. "The jounin were told to be on the lookout for Orochimaru and most of the village doesn't know he was even in the Forest of Death," he reported. Jiraiya narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

"What exactly happened with Orochimaru?" he asked. "Naruto didn't tell us much."

"How much did he tell you?" Kakashi asked the other perverted ninja.

"Only that he attacked the second exam. That Orochimaru was looking for another-"

"I think Shizune, Zabuza, and the genin should go to the living room," I said, staring pointedly at Sasuke and Haku. "Don't complain, most of Konoha's jounin don't know this information. I'm only going to tell the Sannin because they can help. Hebi-teme was their teammate, they know him better than a lot of people."

The four ninja left the room grumbling and glaring at me. I chuckled before turning back to Jiraiya, serious.

"Why'd you make them leave? If it's that important, shouldn't they know?" Jiraiya asked me. I shook my head, standing and walking to the door silently. I clenched my fist and slammed the side of my fist into the wood. Sasuke, Haku, and Shizune all fell away from the door; I heard Zabuza laughing in the background.

"That's better," I said, taking my seat once more. "There are a number of reasons as to why I can't let them know. The biggest one is that Orochimaru has already set his sights on his next body."

"You know who? Who is it? How are they protected?" Tsunade asked hurriedly.

"They are being protected by me. He's standing in my living room," I said, gripping the cursed seal. It didn't hurt, but the idea of it sickened me. Tsunade gasped.

"You don't mean-"

"Uchiha Sasuke. Orochimaru wants his Sharingan. When he attacked the exams, I was patrolling the forest. I had a feeling he would come back and I wanted to protect the genin from your teme of a teammate. By the time I made it to my team, Orochimaru was getting ready to deliver the cursed seal." Hearing the seal mentioned, Jiraiya's eyes narrowed and Tsunade gasped, staring at my hand as it covered the seal.

"He- did he actually-"

"I took care of it. The fragment of his soul is dead. All I have now is the design," I said, removing my hand and exposing the comma design. Recognizing it and realizing the importance of the seal, Jiraiya leaned forward. "I couldn't push Sasuke away in time so I took the bite for him. Kyuubi destroyed the fragment before it could get comfortable. I had my team escape after I was bitten and I eventually chased Orochimaru out. He's still out there, biding his time until the final exam. He'll attack again, that much I know."

"Which is why we can't create a panic," Kakashi cut in. "If the entire village knew, we'd have to go into lockdown. It's easier to let Orochimaru think he successfully infiltrated the village. Once he makes his move, we can isolate him and defeat him."

"I don't think you understand how strong he is. You'll only get yourselves killed," Tsunade said, shaking her head.

"Orochimaru will not be fighting one opponent. I already know his plans. He's going to send his supposed allies, most if not all of which are now allied with me, to attack the main of Konoha while he battles with Hiruzen-ojiisan. What he doesn't know is that I'm going to be fighting alongside Hiruzen. I've chased Orochimaru away once. Now, Hiruzen and I have come to an understanding."

"What understanding?" Jiraiya leaned back in his chair. I chuckled as he nearly lost his balance.

"That, when we fight, we aim to kill. I know that Orochimaru was your teammate. I'm saying that neither I nor Hiruzen can ignore our moral compass and let him slither around until someone else steps up and kills him. He is a Konoha missing-nin; it is our duty to destroy what we've created."

"You didn't-"

"I've already resigned myself to fighting him; don't try to change my mind or limit my guilt. I could have, and probably should have, killed him that day in the Forest of Death. I was too lenient and I won't let Konoha or its villagers suffer from my actions."

"Suffer from your actions," Tsunade scoffed. I raised an eyebrow and she turned to glare, almost desperately, at me. "You know what will happen to you, Naruto. Don't play the fool."

"I've never played the fool," I said quietly, staring at Kyuubi. "From the day I was born, I've been raised to have what you call a hero complex. I know that almost every person you've ever cared about was lost chasing dreams. I'm saying that I'm going to beat the crap out of Orochimaru. I will marry Hyuuga Hinata-chan. I am going to become the Hokage and surpass both my father and Hiruzen."

"And if you don't? What happens if you die facing Orochimaru? What will happen to Hinata? Team Seven? You're going to go out there, look Orochimaru in the eyes, and realize that you are in over your head. How many people have died to become the Hokage?" Tsunade shouted, standing abruptly. I was shocked to see her eyes watering. My gaze softened and I smiled sadly.

"Too many," I answered. "Tsunade, I know that you still care about Konoha. Scream and yell all you want, you love this village with all your heart. The only reason you don't stay here is because you can't let yourself get attached to another boy chasing a dream. I know it, you know it," I said, my eyes widening earnestly. "You can let yourself get attached, I'm not leaving."

Jiraiya studied Tsunade as tears left her eyes. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder, smiling sadly as she leaned into the touch. Kakashi nodded at me and I cleared the dishes silently.

I was about to turn from the room when I heard her speak again. She stared into my blue eyes, her own red and puffy.

"And if you do?" she asked quietly. I walked over to her, crouching at her feet.

"How about a bet," I said. Her eyes brightened distantly and she nodded slowly. "If I don't come out, you can forget about my dreams as long as you don't hold it against Konoha. I'm choosing to walk into this battle, no one forced me. On the other hand, if I come out without a scratch, I get your necklace and your trust," I said. Tsunade's hand closed around her grandfather's necklace and she looked worried, probably remembering the downfall of everyone she had given it to. Thinking deeper about the unlikelihood of me defeating Hebi-teme uninjured, she nodded slowly, deliberately. I held out my hand and she accepted it, closing the deal with a handshake.

"Deal," she said, forgetting her horrible track record. In my memory, she had only won a single bet: the bet she had made with Jiraiya, right before he was killed in Ame.


I winced, my ears ringing. I had remembered the final exam to have a full house but I had not counted on the sheer volume of the event, not at all muted by the mask I now wore on my face. The mask was more for show than not, a reminder of the other nations' promises as well as a warning to Oto.

I stood with my team, all accounted for. I shared a glance and a fond smile with Kakashi, remembering how he and Sasuke had come so late that the latter was nearly disqualified.

I glanced at Sasuke, Haku, and Sakura. All three genin seemed excited for the tournament, even if Sakura was not participating. The pink haired kunoichi was now talking to her teammates, wishing them luck in the tournament. I smiled at the exchanged enthusiasm before glancing up at the Kage box.

All of my allies and enemies were gathered, sitting and talking to each other politely. I noted a certain stiffness between the 'Kazekage' and the others, Hiruzen in particular. Smiling under my mask, I was about to avert my gaze when Hiruzen looked at me and nodded, waving me up to the box. I sighed and glanced at Kakashi.

"Don't kill the 'Kazekage'," he warned. I only chuckled before messing up the genin's hair, earning shouts of protest from each.

"I'll be right back; I need to talk to Sandaime-sama. Don't kill Kakashi while I'm gone," I smirked. Sasuke did a mock salute as Sakura and Haku nodded, Haku a little less enthusiastically. I chuckled, making my way towards the stairs.

"You wanted to see me, Sandaime-sama?" I asked politely. Seeing me, Hiruzen smiled.

"You may take off your mask. No one here is going to attack anyone," he said, smiling around the room. Raikage chuckled, his booming laugh making me smile. I reached up and undid my mask, moving closer to the Kage.

"Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto," the Raikage chuckled, walking towards me. He gave me his traditional punch on the shoulder; I tried not to roll my eyes at the greeting. "It's been a long time since I've seen your mask. I'm not sure I've ever seen your face."

"Not many people have," I smiled. "I'm glad we've straightened out the ambush incident. I meant no harm when I came into Kumo."

"I know," he nodded. "By the way, B and Yugito wanted me to say hello to you for them," he reported. I smiled and exchanged the greeting before moving onto the Tsuchikage.

"Onoki-sama," I bowed my head politely.

"Kitsune-sennin; I must admit, it is strange seeing you outside of my country," he raised an eyebrow, still good-naturedly. I chuckled, blushing slightly.

"I'd say something in my defense but you'd probably find it either hilarious or insulting. Seeing as I'm not sure, I'll keep my mouth shut and leave the politics to Hokage-sama," I shrugged. Onoki only chuckled and I went further down the row.

"Namikaze Naruto," Terumi Mei chuckled, smiling. "How has Konoha been treating you?"

"Well, as ever. Again, thank you for allowing Haku-chan and Zabuza-san to stay in Konoha. I apologize if it caused you any trouble with your people." Mei laughed at my formality.

"Naruto, you don't have to be afraid of offending me. I know your disposition too well to think you would insult me," she chuckled before glancing up at me. "Are Zabuza and Haku here? I'd like to talk to them, remind them that some things in Mist have changed."

"Haku is in my genin team and competing today. She should still be with Team Seven down in the stands," I said, glancing at the crowd. "I don't think Zabuza is here yet but he'll come in time to see the tournament. If you want, I could ask the two of them to find you."

"Thank you, Naruto. And, Hokage-sama," she said, catching Hiruzen's attention. "Don't worry; I won't try to steal them back. If they are happy here than I won't try to take them away." Hiruzen chuckled and waved me behind him. I obeyed and he stood from his chair, walking to the edge of the balcony.

"Naruto, I'm sure the other Kage won't mind if you join us; I think it's time we started this," he said to the gathered Kage. Looking back into the arena, he cleared his throat before addressing the crowd. "Everyone, thank you very much for coming to Chuunin Exams hosted in Konoha. We will now begin the final round matches for each of the eight genin to come out of the preliminaries! Please stay until the end of the tournament!"

The crowds cheered and the 'Kazekage' glanced up at Hiruzen.

"Konoha must have had a good year for there to be so many genin to have made it this far," he commented. Hiruzen nodded but did not reply. I took the initiative.

"I know you must be proud of Suna's team still standing. After all, all three are your own children, are they not, Kazekage?" I asked innocently. The 'Kazekage' nodded tightly, returning his gaze to the arena.

Chapter Text

"The terrain may be different but, like the preliminaries, there are no rules in your battles," Genma announced to the genin. "The matches will continue until one or the other dies or acknowledges defeat. However, if I judge a match to be over, it will stop there. Arguments are not allowed. Understood?"

The genin were silent and tense, all standing straight for the crowd.

"All right," Genma said past the stick in his mouth. "The first match will be… Yuki Haku vs. Hyuuga Hinata. Those two remain in the arena while the rest of you go to the stands."

Turning my eyes to the crowd as the six genin left the field, I saw Kiba notice the ANBU monitoring the arena. I watched as he narrowed his eyes and talked to Akamaru before turning back to Hinata-chan and Haku.

"Do you want to say something?" Hina-chan asked as she shifted into the Jyuuken stance. Haku smirked and withdrew a senbon from her pouch.

"Not much, just that I hope we're still friends after I beat you," Haku shrugged. I smiled proudly at my genin, so confident. Hina-chan laughed.

"Don't worry, you'll still be invited once I finish with you," Hina-chan smiled, activating her Byakugan without a hand seal. Haku chuckled, jumping away from my mate.

Good luck, I thought to Hina-chan through our seal. Glancing at me in the Kage box, she threw me a smile.

Won't need it but thank you anyway, she thought back, looking back on Haku. I chuckled and leaned on the wall. Mei glanced at me questioningly.

"I recommend watching this match closely. Both kunoichi are wearing over a hundred pounds in chakra weights which they will probably deactivate for this match. Hinata-chan has mastered her family's Byakugan. She has complete knowledge of tenketsu and has mastered both the Jyuuken and the first stages of my own style, the warau akuma. She has also signed the fox summoning contract, like myself. On the other hand, Haku is one of my own students. She is your former missing-nin, Mei; I'm sure you know that she is intimidating. She has been furthering her ice techniques with the assistance of one of my summons and has been absorbing my medical ninjutsu. With her medical knowledge and ice senbon versus Hinata-chan's Jyuuken, this will be a very close match."

At the end of my explanation, all five Kage leaned forward in their seats, watching the two rookie kunoichi as they narrowed their eyes at each other.

"Now then, round one," Genma said. "Begin!"

Taking the first move, Haku experimentally threw senbon towards Hina-chan. The Hyuuga heiress did not draw a kunai to counter the rain of ice; she smirked and, following each shard, rocked back and forth on her heels and dodging each one. The senbon stopping, Hina-chan leaned towards Haku and released a small wave of killing intent that made a number of people in the stands freeze. Haku only laughed and drew another senbon.

"Naruto-sensei already taught us how to negate killing intent. That trick won't work on me!" Throwing the senbon, she created a hand seal that I knew well. "Hijutsu: Makyou Hyoushou!"

"I've always wanted to see this technique…" Hina-chan chuckled as the twenty one mirrors surrounded her. "I've heard a lot about these mirrors… You can move from one mirror to the next, create clones, and attack your opponents with waves of ice senbon. It's resistant to fire except for the strongest of jutsu. How will it fare against me?" she asked, her hands moving through seals. "Suiton: Daibakufu no Jutsu!"

Water condensed from the air, rising from the ground, and began to spin around Hina-chan. When the vortex was large enough, it exploded outwards, the A-rank technique smashing the mirrors and sending Haku out of the ice. The Yuki chuckled as she stood up, soaking wet.

"Silly Hina-chan… Ice is made from-" she was interrupted as Hina-chan's foot collided with her jaw, her right hand attacking the tenketsu in Haku's arm. Stepping back from the blow, Haku attempted to lift her arm, only to find that it was paralyzed.

"Silly Haku-chan… I mastered the Jyuuken," Hina-chan smiled deviously. The smile melting away when Haku's left hand glowed with green light and the ice user held it to her damaged tenketsu. Finding me in the Kage box, Hina-chan frowned. "You just had to teach her medical ninjutsu!" she shouted at me. I smiled and shrugged, pointing at Haku as she flexed her right hand.

"Sorry to interrupt," she coughed. Hinata-chan glanced back at her, sighing.

"Kai," she murmured, releasing her weights and disappearing in a blur. She reappeared seconds later, disabling Haku's arms once more. "Can't do that technique without your hands," she said in a singsong voice. Haku chuckled and picked up a fallen kunai in her mouth. Talking around it, she smiled.

"Don't need to," she chuckled. I glanced down, seeing Zabuza in the stands with the rest of Team Seven. He was laughing under his breath as Haku used his technique.

"I was actually talking about releasing your weights," Hina-chan replied, returning into the Jyuuken stance. Haku narrowed her eyes before sighing.

The ice user raced forward towards my fiancée, gripping the kunai between her teeth. Hina-chan let her approach, not moving until the kunai came dangerously close to her neck. Hina-chan leaned back, one leg flying up to meet Haku's side. The Yuki survivor stumbled to the side, grimacing. Hina-chan took advantage of the pause and sprang forward, her hands glowing with chakra.

Haku ducked and kicked as much as she could, trying to push the Hyuuga back, but she was helpless to avoid each jab and the assault on her tenketsu eventually overpowered her will to keep fighting. Hina-chan crouched over Haku, now almost completely paralyzed. Haku spat the kunai out of her mouth and chuckled.

"I think I'm done," she said, glancing at her frozen limbs. Genma jumped down from his vantage point and stared at the two kunoichi.

"That ends the first match," he announced. "Winner is Hyuuga Hinata!"

The crowd cheered as a couple of medical ninja rushed into the arena and lifted Haku onto a stretcher. Hinata-chan walked out with them, laughing with Haku. I glanced at the Kage, most of whom were staring with wide eyes at the two kunoichi. I laughed under my breath as the 'Kazekage' coughed uneasily.

"That was shorter than I thought it'd be," I commented. "Hina-chan must have wanted to end it quickly; she doesn't usually use the Jyuuken." Sandaime chuckled, shrugging.

"Good work, Naruto. Haku has made progress since she was assigned to your team," he said approvingly. He glanced at Hina-chan, smiling. "Your fiancée has also fought well. I hope she makes it to the finals," he commented. I smiled and nodded.

"Hina-chan is confident that she'll win the tournament. I wish her luck against Araiguma; he won't back down like Haku did." At mention of my student, Raikage glanced up at me.

"He's competing? Shouldn't he already be a chuunin, if not a jounin? What village is he from?" A asked. The 'Kazekage' took over.

"He is from Suna," he said, narrowing his eyes as he studied Gaara in the stands. "I was ready to promote him but he wished to be placed on a team with his siblings."

The Raikage followed the 'Kazekage's eyes and found Gaara. Feeling the stares, Gaara looked up at the Kage box. I smiled at him and he waved.

"Hokage-sama? Do you need me here? I'd like to go find Haku and Hina-chan and congratulate them."

"Go ahead," he nodded, smiling under his hat. I returned the smile, walking away until I paused at the door.

"Sabaku no Gaara is fighting Uchiha Sasuke next. I would pay attention to that fight; both were taught by me." Hiruzen nodded and turned back to the arena as Genma announced the next fight. Not following my own advice, I closed my eyes and followed my chakra to Haku's wolf charm. I opened my eyes, only to find a number of medical ninja jumping away from me in shock. Haku glanced at me and rolled her eyes, still unable to move.

"Hey, Haku," I smiled. Hinata-chan stood from a chair at Haku's bedside, walked over to me, and kissed me on the cheek. "Hey, Hina-chan. You two fought well."

"Kakashi said the same thing. He already left, said he didn't want to miss the next match," Haku explained, the medics returning. I waved them away.

"I'll take it from here," I said. My hand lit up with green energy and I activated demon eyes so I could see the targeted tenketsu. I moved my hand over each of the chakra points, repairing the damage done by Hina-chan's attacks. Hina-chan pouted apologetically to her friend.

"Haku-chan…"

"Don't worry about it, I'll be fine. Think about it this way, you won't be bruised up for your wedding." Hinata-chan chuckled at the reminder and smiled at me with pure happiness. I winked and returned to healing my student.

"I could heal bruises in seconds, tenketsu are usually more difficult," I shrugged, finishing up. Haku glanced at me, eyebrows raised, before flexing her right hand.

"Not bad, sensei," she commented. I chuckled and held out my arm.

"Grab on, I'll take you back up," I offered. A medical ninja began to protest in the background and I turned to her. "I am her sensei and probably a better medical ninja than most people in Konoha. I won't let her out of my sight until I'm sure she's recovered."

The medic frowned but stepped back as Sasuke and Gaara were both brought in on stretchers. I sighed, missing the entire fight. I glanced at Hina-chan and Haku.

"You can stay here, Naruto-kun. I'll take care of Haku-chan," Hinata-chan offered. I nodded and she led the ice user back into the arena, leaving me with the two injured genin. Glancing at them, I sighed.

"Seeing as you're still conscious, I guess you won?" I asked Gaara. Green eyes shifted to me and the redhead chuckled.

"Barely," he shrugged, wincing at the movement. I walked to his side, my hands glowing. "If I could move, I'd kill you for teaching him the warau akuma."

"He used it?" I asked, surprised. "I thought he would've depended more on his ninjutsu. I taught him some fire techniques that could dent your ultimate defense."

"Again, if I could move, I would kill you," he said. I chuckled, staring at his damaged body with my red eyes, counting broken bones.

"How did he- Maybe I shouldn't have taught him so much," I said, studying his cracked ribs, dislocated shoulder, and broken ankle. "The famous Araiguma, lying broken at the hands of a twelve year old genin."

"Who knows the warau akuma and released his weights. How much is he wearing, anyway? I could barely see him."

"He was wearing 220 when I started training him for the exams. Did he use Kamisora?"

"Yes, another thing I have to kill you for," he glared while I finished the worst of his injuries. "I'll be fine, Shukaku can handle the rest. You go work on Sasuke."

Obeying my student, I left his side and walked to Sasuke, already crowded by medical ninja. I shooed them away and put my hands on his heart and forehead, ready to perform a chakra exchange. Opening my eyes, I glanced at the medics.

"Watch this. You won't see this technique used anywhere else, and with good reason. This technique is extremely dangerous for anyone with chakra stores less than those of a jinchuuriki," I said, separating Kyuu and my chakras. I pressed my chakra into Sasuke's stores and he jerked at the transfer.

The medical nin gasped as they saw Sasuke's wounds healing at an extraordinary rate. I stumbled back, the loss of chakra taking its toll before Kyuu could give me more chakra. A medic rushed towards me but I waved him away as my skin began to glow red. When the color receded, I stood back up, examining Sasuke.

"What- what did you do?" a kunoichi asked. I glanced back at her and chuckled.

"Something extremely dangerous that will cut his recovery time from months to days. I call this technique the chakra exchange. It's more of a transfer though, as I don't take any of his chakra. Simply put, I separate my chakra from Kyuubi's and inject it into Sasuke's tenketsu. Then, instead of dying from chakra exhaustion, Kyuubi lends me more chakra until my own stores recover enough. That was what the red glow was."

I saw a few medics nod, impressed and stunned at the same time. Sasuke opened his eyes slowly and groaned.

"I lost, didn't I?"

"Sasuke, you were up against the Araiguma, an A-ranking ninja. Not many shinobi could last so long, let alone injure him that badly." As I spoke, Sasuke glanced at his body, noting the lack of broken bones and cuts.

"Chakra exchange?" he guessed. I nodded. "You should go back up, I'll be fine."

"All right," I shrugged. I glanced at Gaara, sitting up in bed against the wishes of the medics. "Gaara, when you are ready, come up to the Kage box. Raikage wanted to apologize."

"Really? A wants to apologize?" he asked incredulously. I nodded, chuckling.

"That and I'm sure you wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to annoy the 'Kazekage'. Who knows if you'll get another chance to threaten him in front of the other Kage."

"True," Gaara smiled. He stretched, hiding a wince as Shukaku helped heal his wounds. He sat up for a few more moments before standing gingerly and walking over to me. "Let's go."

I held out my arm and he laughed under his breath.

"How many Hiraishin seals do you have in this village?"

"I lost count. Are you including the necklace charms and the kunai?" I asked as he gripped my arm. We both closed our eyes and I made the trip as fast as I could, in between blinks. At our arrival, Onoki and the 'Kazekage' jumped. Onoki growled, recovering.

"I really hate that technique," he muttered, remembering all the damage my father had caused Iwa single-handedly with his Hiraishin kunai. The 'Kazekage' only narrowed his eyes, scowling behind his mask.

"Araiguma," the Raikage began, grinning. Gaara glanced up before ducking the inevitable greeting punch. "Long time no see."

"Sorry, I had the impression that neither myself nor my shishou were allowed in Kumo," Gaara chuckled good-naturedly. A shrugged, smiling. I growled quietly.

"I told you not to call me that, Gaara."

"Sorry, taicho," Gaara grinned sheepishly. Onoki studied us with narrowed eyes before glancing towards the 'Kazekage'.

"Your son seems very comfortable surrounded by Konoha nin," he speculated. The 'Kazekage' only narrowed his eyes, not responding as Kankuro forfeited in the arena. Gaara glanced at his brother, groaning.

"Gaara, you know he would've lost. The Aburame are famous for their bug techniques. Your brother's wooden puppets wouldn't have stood a chance," I pointed out. Gaara still pouted. "Think about it this way, Temari is up next. She'll be fighting Shikamaru."

Gaara grinned as the two genin entered the arena, studying each other. Even from the Kage box, I could hear Shikamaru mutter 'troublesome'. I smiled, noticing Sandstorm curled around Temari's shoulder.

"Shikamaru won't be winning this one," Gaara smiled deviously. Hiruzen glanced at the Suna ninja, eyebrows raised. I coughed, turning attention to me.

"Temari won't be fighting this alone. When I came to Suna the first time, I was introduced to Temari, Gaara's sister. When we left, I left a kit in her care. She named the kit Sandstorm and they have been training together ever since. They have a relationship similar to the Inuzukas' friendship with dogs. The biggest difference is that Sandstorm can perform jutsu without Temari's assistance," I explained. The 'Kazekage' smiled, leaning back. "Shikamaru's only chance to win this match will be to defeat both quickly, something he already won't want to do."

"Why not?" Mei asked, studying the shadow user as he sighed. Gaara took over, grinning like his summons.

"Because Shikamaru likes my sister," he chuckled deviously. "He won't do anything too direct in this fight."

"He'd probably let her win anyway so he doesn't have to deal with her being mad at him during the wedding," I pointed out. Gaara smiled, nodding as Shikamaru's shadow extended towards Temari.

The Suna kunoichi let herself be caught in the shadow as Sandstorm jumped away from her, transforming in midair. When she touched the ground in a crouch, she grinned sadistically, fully human. Turning to the dumbstruck Kage, I chuckled.

"Did I mention that Sandstorm is a kitsune?"

Silence and shock were my answers, especially from the 'Kazekage'. Gaara and I grinned and turned back to the battle, ready to watch Shikamaru lose to the Wind Mistress.


Needless to say, Shikamaru walked out shame-faced as Temari and Sandstorm hi-fived each other. Genma jumped into the arena, announcing the end of the first round and giving everyone a twenty minute recess. Gaara and I walked to a secluded hallway, questions ready to be answered.

"When is Orochimaru planning the attack?"

"The final round. He expects me to be in the last match, in the arena so I can go Shukaku and rampage the village."

"Good… Careful against Hina-chan, she's determined to get to the finals."

"Then Orochi-teme will probably tell me to rush the attack to my match with Hinata. I'll stick to the plan if you do."

"No problem on my end. I just need Hebi-teme to get to the roof. I'll break through the barrier." My mind went back to our last venture before returning to Suna. We were watching Oto slowly form.

~Flashback~

A base was being constructed a mile away from our campsite, still visible thanks to our animalistic vision. Gaara was pacing the camp, his mask on. I stared into our small fire.

"So the plan," Gaara began. I nodded, glancing at him through my own mask.

"What about it?"

"Go over it, one more time." I sighed but complied.

"From the original timeline, Orochimaru will infiltrate Suna, defeat your father, and take his place as Yondaime Kazekage. You'll know when they make the switch; Hebi-teme will still smell like snakes, no matter which face he steals. You go on with whatever you were doing, pretending to be oblivious to his plans and identity. When the time for the Chuunin Exams come, get to Konoha a few days early and find me in the village.

"You'll go through the exams. The first is a written exam designed to test your information gathering opportunities. I'll leave how to you but I will say that, last time, you used your third eye. The next will be the Forest of Death. Get the other scroll then make your way to the tower in the center. Using akuma no me to locate my chakra signature might help; I'll be in the tower as soon as I prevent Sasuke from getting the cursed seal from Hebi-teme. Next, you will go through the preliminaries. Try to take your opponent, Rock Lee, out as soon as possible without killing him. If you let him have hopes of defeating you, he will unlock the first five chakra gates and cause ridiculous damage to himself. After that, you'll have a month of free time and training before the final exam, the tournament. In the first timeline, you were ambushed by Dosu. If you want to maintain the timeline as much as possible, kill him. Do whatever Orochimaru tells you for that exam, otherwise it'll look suspicious. If you can avoid it, don't kill anyone else though.

"Once Orochimaru makes his move, summon Shukaku and tell him to make it look good. Hebi-teme will attack Sandaime on the roof. I'll join them while you go around Konoha and keep track of everyone. Basically, go around and take out Orochimaru's pawns. Baki will be fighting with a Konoha ninja named Gekkou Hayate. I hate to say this, but let them fight it out.

"Once Orochimaru is either dead or escaped, hopefully Sandaime will still be alive. He'll choose a successor and I'll recommend Tsunade. The end, most people are happy and the rest are dead or Orochimaru," I said, trying to keep the bitterness out of my voice. Gaara nodded, gazing at the base.

"Why don't we go and destroy Oto now?" he asked, clenching his fist as he studied the ninja.

"Because that would mess up Hebi-teme's plans. It's easier for us if we let him have his way for now, cataloging each of his bases as we go," I said, glancing at the map lying flat on the ground, marked with X's for each Oto base and O's for each Akatsuki base, provided to us by Uchiha Itachi.

Gaara nodded slowly and sat down by the fire.

~End Flashback~

After a while, Gaara leaned against the wall, thinking.

"What do you think will happen after the invasion?"

"Konoha will offer Suna a treaty after you find out how Orochimaru tricked you. After that, I'm not exactly sure. In the last timeline, you became the Godaime Kazekage. I'd love to see that happen again, but it is your choice if you are offered the position."

"I don't know about it… I don't think I'd be ready for that type of responsibility."

"Either way, I'll be standing beside you. Konoha will back Suna if you ever need our help," I said, turning back towards the arena. Gaara paused before nodding and following me back into the crowds.

Chapter Text

I took my seat besides Kakashi as one of the 'Kazekage's guards appeared behind our group. The man tapped Gaara on the shoulder before walking into the hallway. Scowling, Gaara winked at me before following the man into the empty hall to meet with the 'Kazekage'. When he returned minutes later, he nodded subtly at me.

"This match is between Hyuuga Hinata and Sabaku (A/N:I fixed it) no Gaara. Those two come into the arena," Genma announced from his vantage point. The two genin nodded determinedly at the other, making their way to the field. "This match determines who goes on to the finals. That said, remember that if I declare the match finished, it ends. Begin!" he called, jumping back. Gaara smirked, his hands flying through the familiar seals before he bit his thumb, slamming his palm on the ground. Watching him closely, Hina-chan activated her Byakugan before going through the same seals.

When the smoke cleared, two summons stood facing each other, flanked by Hina-chan and Gaara. Gaara studied the mortal fox as Hinata-chan sized up the strange raccoon with narrowed eyes. Scowling, she spoke.

"That is completely unfair, Gaara. You can summon Shukaku already?" she growled. Gaara chuckled sadistically, nodding at Shukaku. A wave of killing intent pulsed away from the sand demon, freezing the civilians and most of the ninja.

"Have fun, Shukaku," Gaara laughed, feigned insanity coloring his voice. Shukaku grinned and grew until he was as tall as the arena. Haku glanced at me with narrowed eyes. I waved her away as Shukaku left a path of destruction in his wake, heading towards the forests.

"Sasuke, Sakura, Haku, I need you three to take Shukaku. Don't worry, he won't kill you. He's on our side," I said, narrowing my eyes as the Kage box filled with smoke. Kabuto placed his genjutsu over the crowds and my team easily released themselves. Seconds passed and the 'Kazekage' eventually flew out of the smoke holding Hiruzen with a kunai at his neck. The Oto nin emerged from their transformations, smirking at the Leaf ANBU.

"Do it," I heard the 'Kazekage' order. The Sound Four created their barrier and, like last time, the first ANBU to come in contact with it died. I jumped onto the roof next to the ANBU captain, my mask already on my face.

"The course of history is going to change now…" the 'Kazekage' said, still in disguise. Hiruzen studied the ninja holding him captive.

"Are you saying that you're starting a war?" he asked quietly. "One should avoid resolution through armed force and should rather seek a solution through negotiations. There's still time."

"Perhaps one gets addicted to peace with age… It's too bad," he smirked, "Sarutobi-sensei. The Leaf has been outmaneuvered. You've lost."

"Perhaps… But nothing is decided until the end," Hiruzen chuckled. "I believe that's what I taught you… Orochimaru."

The 'Kazekage' reached his hand to his face, peeling off the disguise. I growled as he smiled evilly at the Sandaime Hokage.

"I knew this day would come," Hiruzen announced. "However, you won't get my head that easily!"

"I told you, didn't I? It would be better for you to choose the Godaime Hokage quickly," he drifted off. "Sandaime… you will die here." The missing-nin lifted his kunai, his tongue flicking out to touch the metal.

After a pause, Hiruzen glanced at Orochimaru, somewhat incredulous.

"Are you so happy that you're crying, or do you have an iota of sadness in your heart to kill me, your sensei?" Orochimaru smiled, stabbing his palm.

"No… Early on I was tired; now, I'm fully awake," he said, releasing the Hokage and walking away.

"I thought it'd be something like that… After all, I know you aren't one to hold a grudge," Hiruzen said, narrowing his eyes. "You have no goal, no motive."

"Hmm… I guess I do have a motive," Orochimaru said, flinging his hat into the barrier, "To destroy Konoha."

"As I thought," Hiruzen said, a small smile on his aged features.

"To think, I'd be able to fight you again," Orochimaru smiled.

Outside of the barrier, the ANBU captain studied the barrier.

"I see," he muttered, glancing at his team and finally noticing me. "Kitsune, I didn't see you there!"

"It's okay. This barrier can only be broken from the inside, right?"

"Hai," he said, nodding. I smiled and closed my eyes.

"I'm going in," I said. The ANBU began to protest until I shushed him. "Hiruzen has one of my Hiraishin kunai. I'm sure I can get inside. The sound four will be more difficult, they've surround themselves with the barrier… I'll help Hokage-sama with Orochimaru."

I shut my eyes and appeared at Hiruzen's left. Both of the older ninjas looked surprised at my appearance and I thought I saw Orochimaru rock back on his heels.

"There's nowhere to run this time, Hebi-teme," I taunted. "You've dug your own grave with this barrier." Orochimaru only laughed, his hands forming seals.

"Striking Shadow Snake!" he shouted, his tongue morphing into a snake, shooting towards Hiruzen. I withdrew Mizuchi in a flash, slicing off the snake's head with a wave of motion. The snake writhed as it receded back into Orochimaru's mouth.

"You betrayed Konoha… You attack my team… You tried to implant your disgusting soul into my student… You gave me the cursed seal of heaven… This fight does not concern your sensei. This is between you and me, Hebi-teme."

Orochimaru licked his lips and I grimaced.

"Why don't we stop playing these games, Naruto-kun?" Orochimaru grinned. His hands formed seals I had often seen in my past. He proceeded into summoning the past Kage; I smirked when the Yondaime refused to be summoned.

"My father won't be summoned using that technique, Hebi-teme," I said, watching the two coffins emerge from the tiled roof.

"I see you've heard of this technique. Pretty little thing, isn't it Naruto-kun?" Orochimaru smiled behind the coffins. The doors opened and the Shodaime and Nidaime Hokages stepped out, staring at the Sandaime behind me.

"Long time, no see, Saru," the Shodai, Senju Hashirama said in a monotone. His younger brother nodded.

"Oh, it is you… You've gotten old, Sarutobi," the Nidaime, Senju Tobirama, noted. Sandaime nodded, stunned into silence.

"I never thought I'd see the two of you again, not like this," Hiruzen said, glaring at Orochimaru. "It's regretful." The younger brother turned to Shodai.

"Reanimation, huh? Then this youth must have summoned us using the forbidden jutsu," he reasoned, glancing at Orochimaru behind him as the coffins fell to the side.

"Then… does this mean that we must… fight you?" Hashirama asked, staring at his former student. "There is always fighting, no matter where or when you live."

Orochimaru stepped behind them, holding two kunai aloft. Hiruzen narrowed his eyes at the Snake Sannin.

"No good will come by deriding the dead and playing around with time!" Breaking eye contact with his sensei, Orochimaru slide each kunai into the Hokages' heads.

"Let's get started, shall we?" he smiled at me, the two reanimated Hokage steaming as they regained their old strength. "They're ready."

Staring at his deceased sensei, Hiruzen's eyes watered. I glanced at him empathetically.

"You are a monster, Hebi-teme. You've summoned these souls for more than one reason. They might have been the strongest ninja of their time but they were also Hiruzen's sensei. For performing this jutsu, and so many others, you will die today," I promised as the two Hokage began to rush towards me. "Hiruzen; I'll keep the Hokages busy. You need to battle Orochimaru. I will help when I've finished."

"Don't get yourself killed, Naruto. I know my teachers' abilities. Don't underestimate them."

"I know, ojiisan. Go kill the snake, I'll save your sensei," I assigned. Hiruzen scoffed at the nickname but jumped towards Orochimaru. His predecessors jumped to meet them before they were interrupted by my blade. I sliced each with Mizuchi, forcing them away from Hiruzen.

"Ojiisan?" Orochimaru laughed at the title. Hiruzen narrowed his eyes, flying through seals.

"Kuchiyose no jutsu!" Enma appeared out of the smoke, transforming once more into a staff for Hiruzen. I turned away from the Snake Sannin and his sensei as a column of wood rose out of the tiles. My hands formed the rat seal and I muttered 'kai', feeling over three hundred pounds vanish away.

"Wood release… Haven't seen that yet," I chuckled, watching the Shodai fly through hand seals. Pillars rose around me and I grimaced, recognizing the technique used to restrain bijuu. I glanced up, staring into the first Hokage's eyes. "Senju Tsunade, your granddaughter, is here in Konoha. She is doing great; she even took on one of my students on as an apprentice."

Hashirama made no reply as I Hiraishined away from the wooden columns. Nidaime studied me as I talked as I whirled Mizuchi around to deflect his thrown kunai. I stared at where I knew Orochimaru's kunai would be in their heads, largely unprotected if you knew how to remove them.

~Flashback~

"Itachi…" I coughed up blood, watching the reanimated Uchiha standing over me with a kunai closing in on my throat. At the last second, I rolled away, jumping behind him. I forced my hand closer and closer to his neck, reaching for the hilt of the kunai that kept him bound to Kabuto. Feeling the metal, I gripped it and ripped it away from Itachi.

"Na-Naruto," Itachi coughed, collapsing. I fell close to him, holding my broken ribs. Itachi stared at me, his body back under his control. "Naruto, let me-"

"I'll be okay," I said, my hand lighting up with green energy. "I'm glad you are back in control… I know what you did for Sasuke. I'm sorry."

Itachi watched me in silence, flexing his right hand.

"I don't belong in this world anymore. I need you to-" he was interrupted by a rain of kunai, pinning him to the ground. I whirled around, reaching for my own kunai. I was startled to find Shikamaru standing over me with expressionless eyes.

"We need to keep going, Naruto-sama," he reported. I glanced at Itachi's body before nodding, ready to fight Pain again.

~End Flashback~

Shooting towards me, Tobirama launched a spinning kick towards my head. I countered with my own kick, using the spin to strengthen my next, chakra enforced, punch towards his head. He blocked the blow, grabbing my wrist and twisting my arm backwards. He pressed my wrist to the small of my back, jumping away as his brother wound a spiral of wood around my body. I winced as the wood tightened. I pushed Kyuu's chakra out of each of my tenketsu, spinning around in a Kaiten. The wood pushed outwards as the demonic chakra came into contact with it. I jumped away from the wood, towards Hashirama.

"It… really is a shame… that I have to… fight you two…" I said in between kicks and punches. Hashirama met me blow for blow. I feigned a upper cut and the Shodai leaned away to the side, leaving the back of his head vulnerable. Faster than Gai could say 'Yosh!', the kunai was in my hand and ripped away from the deceased Hokage. He shuddered, just as Itachi had, before falling to his knees. I jumped away from him, towards his younger brother.

Tobirama narrowed his eyes at me, his white hair flying out away from his face. His hand flying to his back, I smiled as he drew Raijin no Ken, the sword of the thunder god. I grinned and drew my own sword.

"Before you attack me blindly, you should know that I was trained by the samurai and Kiri's Seven Swordsmen. Also, this blade is the Namikaze sword, Mizuchi. It may not be infused with electrical energy, but it can packs quite a punch if I add my chakra to the mix," I said, pushing both my wind natured chakra and Kyuu's fire natured chakra to create the flaming purple sword I now held in my hands. "If you still feel pain, I apologize," I said, running towards Tobirama. He tightened his grip in preparation.

When our swords met, the three elements exploded away from each other. Tobirama's sword was engulfed by purple flames, Mizuchi was tingling with electricity. Feeling the spark rush to the hilt, I dropped the katana as Tobirama threw his own weapon away.

"I didn't expect that," I admitted, glancing at Raijin no Ken, still aflame. I saw a shadow move towards me and I instinctively ducked, holding a kunai in front of my face. I stopped when I saw Hashirama standing over me, staring at his younger brother. Tobirama was powerless to stop his brother's wood techniques as they wound around his body. Glancing at me, Hashirama nodded.

"Go, I can hold him," he said sadly. I ran to the Nidaime, reaching into his head and gripping the kunai. Tearing it away, the Nidaime fell to his knees, coughing as the wood restricting him receded.

"Thank you, Shodai-sama," I nodded my head, glancing at Hiruzen, breathing heavily across from Orochimaru. I glanced at the deceased ninja. He nodded, his hands forming a seal I recognized from my days with Tenzo as Team Seven's captain. A tree sprouted from the tiles, each limb extending outwards until Orochimaru found himself trapped in a wooden cage suspended over the ground.

"What is your name?" Shodai asked me, standing close to his brother. I smiled, pointing to myself.

"Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto, future Hokage," I grinned. The Shodai only chuckled as his younger brother stood up. Hiruzen walked up to us and I nodded, returning to Orochimaru. He glanced at me, scoffing.

"Heh, heh, if it isn't Naruto-kun?"

"I promised you something Hebi-teme. I told you that you would not be leaving this rooftop with your life. I'm here to keep that promise; Kuchiyose no jutsu!"

Kyuubi appeared, only half his normal size. I jumped to his head, a palm on his forehead as I stored his excess chakra.

"I have seen your crimes, snake. Shinigami-sama will be pleased with your soul at his gates," Kyuu growled. Orochimaru paled as Kyuu lifted a paw, ripping the cage to shreds and pinning the missing-nin to the tiles roof. "Start screaming, snake. You'll get no mercy from me."

I walked away, leaving Kyuubi to his fun as Orochimaru's girly screams filled the air. Each of the sound four, rushing in to help, were quickly disposed of, courtesy of Kyuubi's thrashing tails. I walked to the three Hokage, whistling. Each stood at me, amazed and frightened for the Leaf.

"What?" I asked, aware of their fears. "He won't do anything but kill Hebi-teme and his minions. He knows what his punishment will be if he touches anything or anyone outside of Oto."

"You seem to be on good terms with this bijuu, jinchuuriki," Shodai glanced at the bloody mess that was Orochimaru. I grinned as Kyuu joined us, shrinking till he was up to my waist. I put a palm on his forehead, scratching his ears.

"Isn't that what you wanted when you divided the bijuu amongst the nations? If a jinchuuriki respects their bijuu, and the other way around, they can form a dangerous tag team." I reasoned. The Shodai and Nidaime only chuckled, glancing at Hiruzen.

"How old is this one, Saru?" Tobirama asked. I blinked, remembering that I still had my mask on. I reached up to it as Hiruzen answered.

"Naruto is one of the youngest jounin in the history of Konoha. He skipped the chuunin exams altogether. He is twelve years old." The Hokage all turned to me; inevitably, my arm went to the back of my head, embarrassed as I removed my mask.

"Hiruzen-ojiisan," I complained. "You act like it's such a surprise. I'm my father's son," I shrugged. Hiruzen nodded, chuckling.

"Namikaze Naruto is the last of the Namikaze clan. His father, Minato, was the Yondaime Hokage, the third coffin Orochimaru tried to resurrect. He died sealing Kyuubi into Naruto twelve years ago."

"I still need to kill that Uchiha for what he did," Kyuubi growled. I nodded as the two deceased Hokage looked surprised. I remembered that they both thought Madara to be dead.

"Most of Konoha is under the impression that there are only five Uchiha left in existence. Four years ago, Uchiha Itachi killed everyone in his clan with the exception of his younger brother Sasuke and his pregnant girlfriend. Itachi then left Konoha as an S-ranking missing-nin and joined up with the Akatsuki, an organization made to collect the nine bijuu from all over the world and create a super weapon. The leader is a war orphan from Ame named Nagato, also know as Pain. He is only a puppet, though. The true mastermind is Uchiha Madara."

"He's still alive? I thought he died after our battle," Hashirama said quietly.

"That's because he wants everyone to be under the impression that he died. He is laying low, gathering followers and making plans. You wounded him badly enough that he is still weak, at least compared to his former strength. Crippled, he won't make a move until he's sure it will be successful. Unfortunately for us, that means he can stay hidden while he puts together his forces."

"You sound like you know a lot of Madara."

"I do know a lot about Madara. Whether he knows it or not, I already placed a spy inside the Akatsuki. Personally, I doubt that Madara killed his brother for the Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan. I know that he feared that the Uchiha would be oppressed by the Senju when Konoha was first created. That paranoia drove him to plot against the two of you, leading to his banishment within his clan."

"I remember hearing of unrest within the Uchiha clan," Tobirama commented. I nodded.

"History often repeats itself. When Itachi massacred his clan, they were plotting against Hiruzen. They felt that they weren't getting the proper recognition for helping to found Konoha. Itachi had the worst hand to play; when he heard of the revolt, he informed the Elders. He was currently an ANBU captain, and Danzo decided to use that to his advantage."

"Danzo? Is he still alive?" Tobirama asked, remembering his student. Kyuu growled.

"That war hawk lives on out of spite, nothing more. If I were you, Naruto, I'd-"

"It's a good thing you aren't me, Kyuu. Otherwise a third of Konoha would be dead," I pointed out. Kyuubi grumbled, laying down. "Ever since you died, Tobirama-sama, Danzo has become…. totalitarian. Even if everything he does benefits Konoha, it benefits him just a little bit more. ROOT is completely under his sole control, all of it's shinobi only puppets on his political chessboard. He is the head of Konoha's Council and, until I took my seat, he was not afraid to attempt to intimidate or extort the council members into voting his way. Of course, I might be a little unfair to him; he's wanted me in ROOT since the day I turned six."

"Actually, that was when he started asking me. He's been asking Kakashi since you were two," Hiruzen corrected. I growled. "You were attracting attention to yourself; not many two year olds can walk on water or outrun ANBU."

We continued going back and forth until Hashirama cleared his throat.

"What happens now? Tobirama and I don't belong in this world anymore." I held back a shudder from the similar words. I smiled sadly.

"I learned a lot about this technique when I thought Hebi-teme was the biggest threat. According to my information, there are only a few ways to send you back."

"How?" Tobirama asked, glancing at his brother.

"The first would be for your summoner to dismiss you. Seeing as that won't be happening," I drifted off, glancing at what was left of Orochimaru. "The second is to seal your souls away so that you can't be summoned again. The last is to…" my voice died as I glanced at Hiruzen. Hashirama nodded understandingly.

"To kill us again?" he guessed. I nodded sadly. Hashirama glanced at his brother before shrugging. "All right, let's get this over with."

"What?" Hiruzen asked, his eyes wide. I put a hand on his shoulder.

"It's okay, Saru. We've died before," Hashirama said quietly. "We've had our time here, it's time for us to go."

"You'll see us again, just not here. I left Konoha to you for a reason, Sarutobi. Make sure you leave it to someone who will take care of it," Tobirama smiled. I glanced at Hiruzen and he turned away as I drew Mizuchi. "Naruto? You can take Raijin no Ken. Mizuchi is a fine blade but it never hurts to have another on hand."

"Say hello to Tsunade for me," Hashirama added, thinking of his granddaughter, still in Konoha.

I smiled at the Shodai and Nidaime, almost numb to what I was about to do. I nodded slowly to the two Hokage and brought Mizuchi down in a lethal arc. Hiruzen jumped as the bodies hit the ground.

Chapter Text

~The Next Day, Council Room~

"I have decided, with a good deal of thought, that I can no longer serve as active Hokage," Sandaime announced to the council. One of the elders hid a smile and Danzo tried to hide his happiness.

"Have you decided on a successor?" Koharu asked. Hiruzen nodded.

"I have been considering two people in particular. The first has respectfully denied the opportunity so that he can focus on his other responsibilities," Hiruzen reported, not looking at me. "The second is Senju Tsunade."

"Tsunade is a drunk," Koharu chuckled. I sat up in my chair, ready to defend the Godaime candidate.

"Tsunade fulfills all requirements and then some. Not only is she widely famous as one of the legendary Sannin, she is also one of the greatest medical nin born. What she lacks in organizational skills will be compensated for by her apprentice, Shizune. Tsunade knows how to get her point across-"

"By threatening and yelling, yes," Homura countered. I sighed.

"Which is the only way to communicate with a number of men. If you haven't noticed, I am not exactly quiet or polite in these council meetings. Consequently, I usually get what I want. All Tsunade needs is to learn the subtleties of politics, something I'm sure you, as Elders, should be able to school her in." Homura and Koharu fell silent, opening the door to Danzo.

"I will not deny that Tsunade is a powerful medical kunoichi. I do, however, question her loyalties towards the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Even now, she could prove a liability for Konoha."

"Are you implying that my student does not have Konoha's interests at heart?" Hiruzen nearly growled. Danzo glanced at the Sandaime, smirking.

"Her teammate seemed to have Konoha's best interests at heart, Hiruzen," Danzo said with a fake smile. I sighed again.

"Orochimaru was a time bomb. His disloyalty was inevitable the moment his parents' lives ended. He decided to adhere to his already questionable nindo and learn kinjutsu. Tsunade is different. When she loses someone, she tries to find someone to fill the gap they left behind. Nawaki and Dan both died in pursuit of becoming Hokage. Now her trust is in me because I share that ambition," I said, pulling Shodai's necklace out of my shirt. Danzo narrowed his eyes, recognizing it.

"And if you fall?" Koharu asked pointedly. I tucked the necklace back in my shirt as Hiruzen answered for me.

"Yesterday, Naruto successfully defeated both the Shodai and the Nidaime single-handedly. Naruto is easily on level with the Sannin as well as the Kage. He will not be defeated so easily, nor will he abandon Konoha." I blushed slightly.

"I had help with Nidaime-sama," I corrected, one hand on the Raijin no Ken's hilt, now at my waist. "Even with Shodai-sama, I don't think he was expecting me to break out of his wood…"

"You seem very trusting of this twelve year old," Homura said, narrowing his eyes at me. I kept my face smooth as I drew Raijin no Ken. Hiruzen chuckled as the Elders and the clan heads leaned back in surprise.

"Naruto released both Hokage from Orochimaru. Before they left this world, Tobirama-sama entrusted his blade, Raijin no Ken, to Naruto. Can you honestly say that I should have any reason to doubt this jounin?"

"This is not about me," I said, retracting the sword into it's crossguard "This is about deciding the next Hokage. The council, the elders, and myself are here to advise Sandaime-sama. We have no real say in his successor," I said, sitting down. Hiruzen nodded at me, laughing under his breath.

"Now that that is settled, Senju Tsunade will be appointed Godaime Hokage as soon as the Daimyo approves her," Hiruzen ordered. "I think that is all we came here to discuss… Jounin sensei, come to my office. The new chuunin have been chosen. Dismissed!"

I stood from my chair, laughing with Tori about the ridiculousness of the meeting. We parted at the door; Tori left towards the Academy to resume her class, I left for Hiruzen's office. Kakashi caught up with me easily and we walked away from the seething elders.

~In the Hokage's Office~

Hiruzen sat at his desk, a piece of paper held in his hands. He glanced up at us, the assembled jounin sensei, and smiled.

"First, I'd like to say that I haven't seen this many genin made chuunin in one exam in a long time. We have a total of four new chuunin, all of them rookies." The older jounin sensei all sighed in unison, expecting that their teams hadn't made it through.

"Who are the new chuunin?" Kurenai asked Hiruzen, rocking on her heels. Hiruzen chuckled at her enthusiasm before consulting the list.

"The new chuunin are… Nara Shikamaru," Asuma smiled warmly, "Yuki Haku," I grinned, "Uchiha Sasuke," Kakashi chuckled under his breath, "and Hyuuga Hinata."

At the last name, Kurenai's face broke into a grin as wide as mine. Stopping in her celebration, she glanced at me, her red eyes smiling.

"When's the wedding?" she demanded, grabbing my shoulder. I held back a wince as Asuma laughed. His laughter died when she turned to him, fist raised. "Do not ruin this for me."

I took the opportunity to pull a Kakashi, vanishing out the window. I Hiraishined to my house, where I knew everyone was waiting for news of the Godaime. Team Seven, Kakashi included, were already there. Tsunade was with Shizune and Jiraiya, taking a leave from his traveling to come to my wedding.


"I'm ba-" I was interrupted by the familiar tackling hug. Breathless, I chuckled. "I guess I won't tell everyone who the Godaime is, or the new chuunin." All at once, the weight vanished and my ears were bombarded with questions. "First things first, the Godaime has been decided if they'll take the position."

"Who is it?" Tsunade asked, oblivious to her sensei's wishes. I looked at her pointedly and she took half a step back. "What?"

"Hiruzen recommended you to be the Godaime Hokage. I agreed completely," I smiled. Tsunade looked reasonably shocked.

"Me? Hokage? I don't think so," she drifted off. I raised an eyebrow. "I mean, one student is one thing, a whole village is another…"

"And you'll be perfect. Don't worry, Hiruzen is still here to help you and I'm sure Shizune will keep you on track. I'll be there if you need me to deal with Koharu and Homura."

"I think I can handle those two," Tsunade coughed.

"Without punching them through a wall?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Maybe you should talk to them," Shizune said, glancing in between Tsunade and me. Jiraiya laughed and Tsunade growled, raising her fist. As Jiraiya blanched, I cleared my throat loudly.

"Tsunade, I do live here. I'd appreciate it if you didn't punch Ero-sennin through a wall. Besides, I didn't even announce the chuunin yet." The room quieted in anticipation and Kakashi sighed.

"You don't need to draw it out, Naruto. Just tell them who got promoted."

"You're no fun," I pouted. Kakashi rolled his eyes and I turned back to the genin. "There were four genin to be made chuunin, all of them rookies: Nara Shikamaru, Yuki Haku, Uchiha Sasuke, and Hyuuga Hinata."

Again, I was tackled by Haku, Hina-chan, and Sakura. Following my expectations, Sakura seemed happier for her teammates than she felt angry at her own rank.

"Okay, okay," I said, pulling the kunoichi off of me. "Chuunin is a big deal, that means-"

"We're getting married!" Hina-chan said in a singsong voice. I smiled at her, nodding.

"Exactly. Less importantly, it means that you are now able to be a team leader on missions. Team Seven will still function as a squad but you will get more difficult missions. You will still have a team leader, either Kakashi or another jounin, but it probably won't be me."

"Why not?" Sasuke asked calmly. I smiled sadly.

"Everyone knows who I am; I'm an S-ranking nin in the Bingo Book. I'll be sent on the most dangerous missions, A and S rank. Team Seven will be going on easier missions, B to A rank. The only times you'll see me are on A-ranking missions or in the village. Otherwise, I'm removed from Team Seven. I was only your jounin sensei because Team Seven only had two genin."

"Aww," Haku pouted.

"Don't worry, I shouldn't be sent out for a while. After all, we have a wedding to throw," I smiled at Hina-chan. She grinned back and I wrapped my arm around her shoulders, glancing at the midday sun. "Speaking of which, when is the wedding? I never asked."

"Two weeks," Hina-chan answered, smiling. I nodded, thinking about the guest list. "You should probably get the Sand Siblings, we need Gaara and Temari here for the last minute preparations."

"The entire wedding is a little last minute," I pointed out. Hinata-chan smacked my shoulder playfully and chuckled. "Okay, I'll get them tomorrow. I'll give Suna a few days to recover from Hebi-teme."

"Sounds like a plan," Kakashi said, stretching. He glanced around the room, his gaze lingering on Shizune before moving on. I laughed under my breath as Hina-chan smiled knowingly. "Hinata, you should tell your father that you made chuunin."

"I'm sure Kurenai already told him," Hina-chan shrugged, seeing my memory of her jounin sensei's reaction. "If she didn't, it can wait until I get home," she said, hugging my side. I chuckled.

"Who wants lunch?" I asked, walking towards the kitchen door.


Hearing Hina-chan come into the kitchen, I glanced up from the counter. She smiled at me, walking behind me and wrapping her arms around me.

"Love you," I reminded her. She chuckled and hugged me tighter.

"Always and everywhere," she smiled. "Everything will be different now… Orochimaru is dead…. Sasuke doesn't have the seal and still has a family… I hope he and Sakura-chan start going out. They'd be a good fit if they stopped pretending for the other."

"I know. Sakura's getting out of her fan girl attitude. Now we're just waiting on Sasuke to figure out what's in front of him." Hinata-chan sighed, nodding against my shoulder.

"I guess Gaara and Matsuri aren't going to be together this go round… He and Haku-chan will be good for each other once he figures out what to tell her."

"You've been watching them too?" I asked quietly. Hinata-chan nodded into my shoulder again, releasing my as I picked up the plate of sandwiches. I carried them outside and Hina-chan called into the living room.

"Food's outside!" she shouted through the door before following me to the backyard. Setting the plate down, I picked up a sandwich and sat down next to Hina-chan. Lunch was soon over but that didn't force us inside. The sun was warm and partially hiding behind a layer of fluffy clouds. I glanced at them, knowing Shikamaru would be on his familiar hill.

"Anyone up for a swim?" I asked, directed towards Team Seven and Hina-chan. Jiraiya threw a hopeful glance towards Tsunade. I noticed Kakashi throw a more subtle glance towards Shizune and I smiled knowingly.

Sakura, Haku, and Hina-chan immediately agreed, running into the house to grab bathing suits- something always left at my house for emergencies. Even Sasuke nodded, laughing under his breath. He walked at a more sedate pace towards the house, flanked by me.

Changed into my bathing suit, I grabbed towels from one of the closets, laughing as I remembered the first time I showed Kiba and Hina-chan the pool.

When I walked out of the house, the others were already in the pool. I glanced empathetically towards Jiraiya, now sporting a black eye as Tsunade looked on triumphantly.


 

~Two Weeks Later~

"Stop fidgeting," Sasuke hissed to me. I glared at him. I was not fidgeting, I was straightening my tie. Again. I glanced down at my black suit, fighting the urge to tear it to shreds.

The clearing was beautiful, the clouds softening the sunlight. There would have been singing birds if there was not a number of demon foxes and raccoons in attendance.

I stood in the gazebo, Sasuke at my side. I glanced at Hiruzen, presiding over the ceremony, and he nodded encouragingly. My eyes turned to Sakura, dressed in her lavender kimono. Her eyes were turned down the aisle of chairs, catching my attention.

The world melted away when my eyes caught Hinata-chan. She looked stunning, her kimono elegant and simple, embroidered with silver sakura petals, just like the kimono I had lent her so long ago. The dress was a paler purple than the bridesmaids' dresses, the obi pure white and stitched with silver branches. Her blushing face was hidden partially behind a sheer lace veil pinned into her hair. Her dark hair was smoothed into two buns, not unlike Tenten's normal style.

She walked easily, gracefully, down the aisle at her father's side. She met me in the gazebo, her father lifting her hand and placing it on my own arm. I couldn't help but smile.

You look so beautiful, I thought towards her. Hina-chan's blush darkened and she tightened her grip on my arm, smiling shyly under her veil.

I found myself not hearing Hiruzen, the background fading away as I gazed at Hinata-chan. When it came time to say our vows, I smiled broadly.

"I, Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto, vow that though time may pass, fortune may smile, trials may come; no matter what we may encounter together, I will love you, Hyuuga Hinata, always and everywhere."

"Hinata?" Hiruzen looked at Hina-chan. She smiled, her eyes watering.

"I, Hyuuga Hinata, vow that I will stay at your side, no matter what tries to part us. I swear to laugh with you in good times and to comfort you in bad. My body, heart, and soul all belong to you. I love you, Namikaze Naruto, always and everywhere," she smiled, tears falling down her cheeks as she stared into my eyes.

"Then, by the power vested in me as the Sandaime Hokage of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, I now pronounce you man and wife. Naruto, you may kiss your bride." I smiled as I lifted the veil covering my mate's face. I pulled her into my arms and the witnesses clapped and stood up when our lips met. Parting all too soon, we were soon rushed by our friends and family, all coming to congratulate us and wish us well.

"I hope for your sake she's not too troublesome," Shikamaru sighed. Temari smacked the back of his head.

"What he meant to say is that he hopes that you are happy together," Temari growled. Shikamaru shrank before the Suna kunoichi as she grabbed his wrist and pulled him away. Tenten and Neji took their place. My jaw fell just a bit as I noted their joined hands. Tenten released her hold on Neji, moving to hug Hinata-chan.

"Aww, Hinata-chan! I'm so happy for you," she smiled. Hina-chan blushed, beamed as her cousin nodded towards her, a small smile on his face.

"Thank you," Hinata-chan blushed, smiling towards me. I talked a little with Neji before Tenten dragged him away. I chuckled at the behavior, so much like their future- past?- selves.

"The infamous Kiiroi Kitsune settling down with a mate? Never thought I'd see the day," a familiar voice behind me chuckled. I turned, smiling at Gaara.

"Are you still upset that you weren't best man?" I joked. Gaara stuck his tongue out at me, stopping when Haku pushed him aside in her rush to congratulate us. After another tackling hug, Gaara pried the former Kiri kunoichi off of me and my mate.

The second he let go, Hinata-chan tackled Haku in a hug. I rolled my eyes at her revenge.

"Hinata-chan! You're in your wedding dress! You can't roll around on the grass," Ino scolded. Hina-chan stood from the ground, mumbling apologies as her blushed deepened even more. Her anger forgotten, Ino continued on to squeal about how beautiful the ceremony and Hinata-chan were. Gaara rolled his eyes at the change in personality.

"Does that happen a lot?" he asked out of the corner of his mouth. I sighed, nodding.

"Everyday. I'm pretty sure it's a kunoichi-" my reply cut off as I spotted movement in my peripheral vision. Turning my head, my face broke into a smile as I saw Sasuke, his arm around Sakura's waist as they both laughed. Gaara followed my gaze.

"It's about time those two decided they don't hate each other," Gaara chuckled. I nodded before glancing at Ino, hoping she hadn't noticed.

"So Ino, how's your dad? I haven't seen him around the Stand-By Station in a while." Ino shrugged.

"He's all right. He and Ibiki-san are still busy interrogator the Oto nin from the invasion." Hina-chan raised an eyebrow, concerned.

"The invasion? That was over two weeks ago," she frowned. Seeing the change in demeanor, Ino glanced around her, looking for something else to talk about. I winced when her eyes zeroed in on Sasuke and Sakura. Hina-chan followed Ino's eyes and smiled. "I thought there was something going on between them."

Ino glared at the pink haired kunoichi, almost growling.

"Billboard brow," she growled. I winced and grabbed her arms. "No! You- let go- of me!"

"Not if your going to go over there," I said calmly as the blonde struggled against my arms. Not giving up, Ino leaned to the side, trying to knock me off balance. "Not going to work," I said in a singsong voice. Ino huffed, still trying to break away. Haku sighed and stepped forward, hand raised. She smacked the back of Ino's neck, knocking her out.

"All done," she smiled at the now unconscious kunoichi. I sighed, picking Ino up.

"Haku-chan, you didn't need to knock her out; you should have let her blow off some steam. Now she'll wake up angry," Hinata-chan frowned, studying the blonde kunoichi's face.

"What's done is done," I sighed. "Let's get back to the house. We still have a party to throw, don't we?" I shrugged, holding out my arm. Hinata-chan accepted it, Gaara and Haku staying behind.

"We'll make sure everyone gets to the house," Gaara suggested. I smiled knowingly at the redhead and he blushed, clearing his throat. "Get going, lovebirds- foxes? Either way, get out of here."

"Sure thing, love- raccoons?" I winked. Haku blushed and Hinata-chan bit her lip, trying not to smile. We Hiraishined away, to the kunai I left on the coffee table in the living room. I placed Ino down on the couch and walked outside as Hinata-chan placed a blanket over her.

Staring at the backyard from the porch, I smiled. Paper lanterns hung from ninja wire over all the tables, winding around the patio and the pool. White hibiscus floated lazily on the rippling water, reflecting the setting sun. The tables were all covered with a pale lavender tablecloth and set with silverware. In the center of the patio, a long table stretched from one end of the patio to the other, covered with food. In the center of the long table sat the wedding cake.

Going along with Hina-chan's wishes, I had made my super crazy amazingly addictive triple chocolate cake, as it was now named. The cake itself was built into three tiers, each wider than the one above it. The two lower layers was frosted in dark chocolate frosting, the last in milk chocolate. Cherries and lilac blossoms made of sugar dotted the cake, a small figurine of Hina-chan and I sculpted out of ice- courtesy of Yuki Haku- adorned the top.

Finishing admiring my handiwork, I took my place at a table, as assigned by Sakura and Hinata-chan. Hinata-chan came outside, her kimono replaced by a white dress. No longer reflecting the Hyuuga clan, Hina-chan opted for a strapless floor length gown. The fabric darkened as it got closer to the ground, ending in a dark violet at the hem. She smiled at me, taking the seat beside me.

We watched as people drifted in, saying congrats one more time, and take their assigned seats around the patio. When everyone was seated, a voice yelled out for a speech. Pushing Sasuke up, Sakura smiled deviously.

"Okay, okay, I'll talk," he coughed, smiling between Hina-chan, myself, and Sakura. "First, if anyone here gets married, don't make me the best man. I suck at speeches." A few people laughed and Sasuke glanced at me. I nodded encouragingly, and he sighed. "First, congrats you two. Hinata, I'm so sorry you're stuck with my dobe of a sensei," he chuckled, lifting his glass to me.

"Oi," I called warningly. Sasuke only chuckled at me. "That dobe of a sensei can kick your ass."

"Yes, I seem to remember you cracking my femur when we were sparring," he chuckled. "But then, after all that crap I put you through, every insult I tried to throw at you, you still looked out for me. You'd make sure I was okay after our spars and you were next to me through every tight spot I've been in. I once told you that everyone I cared about was dead and you looked ready to punch me in the face. You told me that I cared about people whether I wanted to or not. It was only when we were in Wave that I realized something. We are brothers, Naruto. So, Hinata? Welcome to the family," Sasuke smiled, sitting back down as the crowd clapped. Sakura got up next, blushing slightly.

"Tough act to follow," she mumbled, glancing at Sasuke. "First, congrats again," she smiled at us. "Naruto, I remember the first thing I did when I found out you were our jounin sensei with Kakashi-sensei, back in my happily abandoned fan girl days. I saw you and thought, 'how is this baka stronger than my Sasuke-kun?' Then you shut me up before I could say anything. Do you remember what you said?" she asked me, smiling as she told her story. I chuckled.

"Glaring is not going to make me any weaker, just as it will not make you and Sasuke stronger. Instead of complaining about my position, work on improving yours," I answered. Hiruzen chuckled in the background at my maturity.

"And I kept hating you," Sakura said, shaking her head in disbelief. "I don't think I even liked you until I started learning medical ninjutsu. You taught me that there was something other than fighting, in both my career and my attitude with people. Hinata-chan, don't lose this one," she smiled at my mate before sitting back down.

Hiruzen stood, holding his glass.

"A toast," he proposed. Everyone picked up their glasses, staring expectantly at the Sandaime. "To the Namikazes, let Kami keep you in this world both happy and together, safe from harm and hardship."

"To the Namikazes!" everyone chorused, lifting their glasses to their lips. Hinata-chan and I laughed, intertwining our arms before drinking the white wine.