The morning sun was Naruto’s best friend and arch-nemesis. On one hand, Mr Sun gave his cute plants the food they required to continue being cute and green, but on the other, it messed with his PRECIOUS BEAUTY SLEEP! Let it be said that Naruto hated waking up with a passion, especially as sleeping was so hard for him. Sometimes he wished he could swap places with his furry prisoner who slept an average of 27 hours per day.
However, as a shinobi, Naruto knew what he had to do and dutifully wrenched himself out of bed every morning at 6 am. Throwing off his nightcap, the ninja began to blindly navigate his apartment, unwilling to damage his sensitive eyes in the harsh sunlight. After nearly a decade of the exact same routine (sans those two years spent on the road, it doesn’t count), Naruto knew his apartment as well as the back of his hand.
...not that he ever looked at his hand that closely… but nevertheless, steering himself to the bathroom was as easy as inhaling a bowl of ramen!
So when he kissed the peeling wallpaper of his apartment instead of finding himself in the bathroom, Naruto knew there was something wrong. Something freakishly wrong. Did… did he get taller? That was the only explanation for this weird event. He always hated being 166cm only. Everyone was taller than him, even Gaara was taller than him!
Naruto spent many days moaning and practically bitching this information to whoever would listen. Strangely enough, the only person willing was Hinata, despite her weird stammer and fidgeting demeanour.
Sighing, he forcefully wrenched open his eyelids and carefully rubbed the area around them as Naruto knew that he was not going to get anywhere if he just stood still and complained about life in his head. Kurama wasn’t even awake to listen.
Still feeling half asleep, the blond trudged himself towards the nearest sink, only opening his eyes every few seconds to make sure he was going in the right direction. When he finally reached his destination, Naruto twisted the tap on and splashed cold water directly onto his face and recoiling at the icy feeling.
Despite the horrible feeling that the water gave him, once he towelled his face dry, Naruto felt so much better than in his groggy morning state. He felt like he was actually awake too. Setting down the damp towel, he flicked open his eyes and saw his face.
The first thing he did once he recovered from his shock was burn the abomination called his jumpsuits in the nearest training ground. Next, he collapsed into the dirt, face turned skyward. Lastly, he stared into the flames and laughed.
While most would have found the sight of a young boy laughing as he burned his own clothing disturbing and immediately told security about the pyromaniac in the area. Shinobi and civilians living in shinobi villages were far more resilient and ignored the common sight. And Naruto? He was too caught up in the realisation that he woke up six years in the past.
After 20 minutes of uncontrollable laughter. Naruto decided that the time for hysterics was over and promptly smoothed his face into one of solemnity. Having already decided that, No, it is not a genjutsu and No, this is not the Eternal Tsukuyomi, (he wouldn’t be in this dump if it were) Naruto was ready to make a plan. Or a guideline. He was a man of action. Everyone knew that Naruto didn’t plan. (Except that Sakura beat something called priorities into his head).
So… priorities? Now, this was something Naruto had to think about. Regardless of what most would say, the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki was not stupid. He could read, he could write, he could calculate how much his ramen affected his profit every month. Naruto was not stupid. He just… preferred not think. It hurt his head.
However, Naruto was and will always be an idiot.
“Hmmmm….” Sitting cross-legged, Naruto furrowed his brow into his thinking face, “What to do…?”
“NARUTO!” Naruto shoulders betrayed him and jumped up in shock. In a one slow, careful movement, he turned his head and met with a glowering Iruka. “What do you think you’re doing?”
And the sight rendered him speechless. “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…”
“Nevermind!” His teacher snapped, the familiar scarred headband glinting in the morning light. With ease, he scooped his wayward student under his arm and held him under his arm like a sack. “We’re going straight back to the academy and you can give me your excuses then.”
Now Naruto was panicking. If he was at a loss for words just seeing his former teacher, who, by the way, was still alive and kicking in the future, how the hell would he react to everybody else? Would he cry? Scream? Stare at them like a fish?
As it turns out… it was none of the above. Rather, right after Iruka-sensei’s shunshin, he burst out into his second peal of laughter. Because really? That duck-butt hair? The I-will-murder-everything-in-my-sight stare? And the upturned I’m-better-than-you posture? It was all too much for Naruto to see in a small, tiny, pseudo version of his best friend.
“Naruto!” A fist buried itself into Naruto’s hair, “Stop laughing! It’s the day of graduation exam. Honestly, and after the stunt you pulled yesterday… you still haven’t learnt your lesson. Be thankful that Mizuki-sensei took pity on you and allowed me to bring you here.”
The man in question smiled in a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing way and Naruto couldn’t help but shut up in that very moment as he shivered just at the sight of that bastard. Grinding his teeth in agitation, every fibre in his being told him to attack-to pounce and attack the living daylights out of the man who nearly killed his precious teacher.
“Get into your seat!” Iruka-sensei growled, shoving Naruto forward, not too gently, “I’ll start handing out the tests. Under no circumstances will there be any cheating! If any of you are caught, that is an immediate 10% off of your academic grade!”
Following the man’s orders, Naruto trudged up the stairs with eyes staring straight into the Uchiha survivor. The boy glared heatedly, but the time-traveller could not sense any malice behind the action, leaving him in a confused stupor.
“Dobe, what happened to the Kill-Me Jumpsuit? Finally realised that the colour wasn’t suited for ninjas?” he sneered. “Or has your stupidity realised that pyjamas are better ninja wear?”
“You!” Naruto snarled back and took another step forward, ready to defend the virtue of the sacred coloured named Orange and not necessarily his jumpsuit. Contrary to most people’s beliefs, he did not like or adore the orange jumpsuit of his. Rather, he found it too baggy on his 12-year-old body and only had begun to fill it out at the age of 14. Yet it was far too late by then and it was destroyed in… the six tails incident. It brought up rather conflicting memories of the best and worst times. Nobody could fault Naruto for murdering the offending pieces of clothing.
However, as fortune decreed, that one step started with Naruto’s foot missing it’s grip and the sudden jolt of freedom and ended with his face colliding painfully with the wooden steps.
“Naruto!” Mizuki called out, “Are you okay?” And hearing his fake, saccharine voice coloured with concern made Naruto’s morning ramen threaten to arise out of his stomach. Quickly, he scrambled up and ignoring the snickering from his batch mates (most of which would never become shinobi anyway) he zipped into his seat. Honesty, he had six full years of extra experience and he was still doing childish things like tripping?
“I’m okay…” He gritted out, “Let’s just get this test over and done with!
Even though he had technically passed the graduation exam all those years ago (by a technicality, but still a passed), the sight of the two teachers sitting behind the desk still never failed to summon a shiver down his spine. Naruto realised quite early on that he probably had a crippling fear of failing, (A ticket phobia, Sakura told him, which was stupid. He wasn’t afraid of tickets), judging by the constant nightmares he would have of failing promises and people.
“Alright, Naruto, all you have to do is create two clones,” Iruka-sensei said.
As time went by, Naruto, unfortunately, became more observant. This was useful for being a Shinobi, but it also let him see things he definitely did not want to see-or notice, including Konohamaru’s crush on Hinata’s sister, Sasuke’s reciprocating loving gaze at Sakura and Kakashi-sensei and Iruka-sensei’s… bleh! Moving aside, this new perceptiveness allowed him to notice the scarred man’s phrasing; ‘create two clones’. He did not mention the technique that Naruto was required to use and that meant that Naruto was allowed to use his number one, most favoured, spammed jutsu!
Summoning his chakra into his fingertips and feeling the chaotic energy swirling beneath his skin, Naruto formed the cross-like sign for the Kage no Bunshin. Moulding the energetic chakra with a bit of difficulty, he released it to form two perfect clone copies of his 12-year-old body.
“Congratulations Naruto!” Iruka stood up and the Kyuubi jinchuuriki could tell that the twitching corners of his smile were the teacher’s professionalism threatening to break and engulf his face with an outright proud grin. “You’ve passed and you’re now officially a ninja of Konohagakure.”
“...he passed?” The bastard next to Iruka muttered in disbelief, eyes wide like tiny little saucers.
“I passed?” Naruto echoed beside him, unknowingly taking a similar expression. “I-I really passed?” Was he even alive? This definitely not how his usual dreams went. But with shaking steps he walked up to the grading table and took the blue-clothed headband from Iruka’s waiting hand.
“OH MY UCHIHA FUCKING MADARA GOD!! I FUCKING PASSED!!” Naruto yelped and jumped up with an excited grin, completely ignoring Iruka-sensei’s chasting of ‘Language!’ and leapt into his arms, drawing a yelp from the older man.
But regardless, the chunin smiled and lowered his voice to say; “Ichiraku’s at lunch?”
And Naruto could only beam in response.
It was only perhaps after Naruto left the grading room when he realised; “Oh flying fuck, I forgot about that bitch Mizuki!” And he folded into himself and let out a long-suffering groan. “Fuuuuuuuuuck!”
The person after Naruto, a young civilian boy who was never destined in becoming a shinobi but rather a very successful gossip, immediately came to the conclusion that the blond had definitely failed, judging from the crude expression and lack of headband around his golden mane. He, unfortunately, rushed back to class and began bragging about how the idiot failed and I passed, hahaha! (How wrong was he?)
“What to do?” Naruto began to consider smacking his head against the wall. If this really wasn’t a dream (or nightmare) like he originally believed, then he really was in some deep shit. Who knew what the hell Mizuki would do now? To be completely honest, Naruto had the friggin’ devil’s luck to have been able to survive this long in his circumstances; namely being in the worst possible situations with the worst possible outcomes.
If this really wasn’t a dream (still not 100% sure about that) then he may have just fucked his past up. Actually, thinking about it again, he may just be fine because as far as Naruto could tell, while the man was a fucked up fruitloop who needed to stop following all the cliches of How-to-be-a-Villain-101. He was a weak bastard as well.
So in a typical Naruto-esque fashion, he rose from his squatted position, stretched his body out and said: “Fuck it.” Then left in a swirl of leaves. He had a new wardrobe to get and priorities to sort out.
Let it be said that Konoha had something against the colour Orange. Every single shop, all 76 of them which offered shinobi styled choices… none of them stocked the orange which he so craved.
“How is this even possible?!” Naruto moaned into his hands, ignoring the rifled stares of the civilians around him. Even if they all hated him at one point and charged everything at an inflated rate, surely they should have something in orange, ANYTHING IN ORANGE! The first thing he would do when he became Hokage would be to decree that each and every one of these stupid stores would always have something primarily orange. The second would declare a national Ramen day right after October 10th.
(He was obviously exaggerating as there were some clothes accented with trimmings of orange or had orange symbols, but none of them were able to sate his thirst for the colour.)
The lack of orange really was a major problem, especially as tomorrow was photo day—and his first meeting with Konohamaru—and he needed to make a good impression. Though, if he remembered correctly, the first time around he had a very good rendition of a Kabuki warrior… but then again, he met Ero-sennin and had already realised that Kabuki wasn’t really for him.
He really regretted burning all of his jumpsuits. He didn't hate them that much. It was just a fit of insanity which drove him to commit the heinous deed. His poor, poor jumpsuit…
Seeing a promising looking shop in the distance, Naruto steered himself into that direction. Trying not to get his hopes up, he entered the quaint, wooden store with a bright smile.
”Welcome.” The shopkeeper said, in a boring, monotonous key, not bothering to look up from his newspaper. Naruto grinned wider in response. He quickly directed himself into the clothing section and began his search.
One quick scan through the aisles and the Jinchūriki could tell that none of the clothes were orange enough for the Prankster king. With slight hesitation, Naruto called out to the shopkeeper.
”Excuse me, Mister?” Naruto decided to keep it as polite as possible, ”Do you have any Shinobi outfits in orange?”
With one suffering sigh, the man set down his newspaper and glanced towards Naruto. ”Little one, aren’t you a little too young to be playing ninja?”
Naruto growled inwardly in response. While he knew he was short, Naruto obviously, wasn’t that short. Uh, Hinata was shorter than him. He knew he picked the wrong disguise for the day. As Konoha’s hero and former pariah, Naruto was never out of the public eye. Though it got much, much worse after the whole Nagato fiasco. While the young orphaned Naruto yearned for attention—any attention, as he grew older, he realised just how bad it could be. Especially… FANGIRLS!
Some may laugh at this, but fan girls (and occasionally fan boys) are the worst…beings to ever walk the Elemental Nations!!! Never once had the blond felt so much… empathy for his silent teammate who had been battling the evil demon’s affections for years! No wonder he defected! Naruto was so glad that Sakura was no longer a fan girl or rather in the future she would no longer be a fan girl (but she evolved into something worse…).
As a countermeasure to escape from his own fan club, Naruto needed to up his game. And that is a very scary thought for someone who was able to successfully play hide and seek with Anbu for hours since childhood. The fangirls were VICIOUS! They found him everywhere! No matter where he went, or when it was, they were always… always lurking right around the corner…
So with a heavy heart, 17-year-old Naruto set out to level up his acting skills, and enacted Operation Avoid Fangirls At All Costs!
Which led to this; time-travelling Naruto stuck in 12-year-old Naruto’s body which was consequently stuck in a disguise, complete with a black wig and makeup to cover his whisker cheeks. He could’ve used ninjutsu, but he always knew there was always a sharp eye who could sense the chakra and dispel the transformation. (He knew from experience)
Puffing out his cheeks in a very annoying civilian fashion Naruto huffed, “I’m not little! I'm a proud shinobi of Konoha!” And to emphasise this, Naruto swept his brunette wig’s bangs away to reveal the emblem of the village soldered onto shiny metal.
The man chuckled and pat Naruto’s head, “Proud shinobi, eh? Well, I'll be happy to help you find what you need.”
Naruto smirked as he successfully charmed the middle-aged man (without needing to flaunt boobs around too!). He nodded and continued to use a higher pitch, “Mister, I'm looking for Orange clothes!”
“Orange, you say?” He stroked his chin thoughtfully and then dove into the nearest clothing rack.
Naruto waited patiently at the side, fidgeting with the sides of his short, dark blue yukata. The clothes were a present from the Third Hokage about half a year ago and Naruto had never worn it before. But using secret Uzumaki magic, Naruto styled the clothing into a perfect disguise.
”Here, ” the man withdrew from the clothes to reveal a… black jacket. Naruto hoped the disappointment didn't show on his face. The shopkeeper lined the jacket up Naruto’s chest and hummed. “It’s a bit big, but you should grow into it. Do you want to try it on?”
Keeping up with the polite little boy persona, Naruto smiled and nodded despite not really wanting to try on something… Not orange. Taking the jacket from the man, Naruto furrowed his eyebrows slightly. It looked vaguely familiar.
Sliding both arms into the sleeves. Naruto checked his reflection in the mirror and grinned in a foxy berth that threatened to engulf his face.
“This is absolutely, positively perfect, Ojī-san!” Naruto gushed, eying the beautiful orange accents accentuated against the star black.“ How much?! Can I buy in bulk? How does a dozen sound?”
The formerly bored man matched his expression ear to ear, ”Now you’re talking.”
Naruto still felt nervous approaching the classroom. Last time he stepped into the academy as a child, he ended face first into… Sasuke-teme. The beating given was horrifying and the blond wasn’t sure if he could look at the Uchiha’s fangirls the same after that experience. Regardless of how much he realised he needed to follow the old timeline, that was something Naruto wouldn’t wish on anyone. (Except maybe Ebisu. The closet pervert.)
And he had seen neither Sasuke nor Sakura in months! The former being on self-imposed exile and the latter holed up in the hospital. Naruto was worried how he’d react to their faces.
However, Naruto had always been a believer of “It’s now or never” and the new term “YOLO” and without giving his brain any more time to think, he slammed open the wooden sliding door and yelled, “I’m sorry for being late!” He smiled mischievously and took the words of his sensei-to-be, “I was lost on the road of life,”
He was lucky because Iruka-sensei seemed to be glowing and dismissed Naruto with a simple “Sit down.” and continued to talk. He was even luckier because he skipped the pep talk (which wasn’t bad in foresight but wasn’t the best Naruto had heard.) and quickly moved to the only seat available, right next to Shikamaru and in front of Sasuke.
“What’s with the new clothes Naruto?” The lazy boy said, not bothering to lift his head and simply turned slightly to face the side, “I thought you loved the orange.”
Thinking a bit about the bonfire Naruto lit in Training Ground three and the pile of burning Ramen cups, Orange jackets, outdated scrolls and other junk, Naruto knew he had to dish out a half-truth, half-lie from the back of his mind, he didn’t want his batchmates to be too wary of him just yet.
“Change was imminent…” Naruto said dramatically, “And my self-imposed stealth training is complete.” It was true. While the blond had never been a Chūnin, he had to get through a whole journey and a half to get himself up to Jōnin standards. He not only had to get his knowledge of everything up to scratch, but he also had to get his basics up too. The testing phase revealed Naruto’s subpar Genjutsu skill, but at the same time, it uncovered his unnatural stealth, tracking and trap-making abilities.
It wasn’t much of a surprise to either Naruto or Kakashi-sensei, however, Sakura was astonished by the seemingly new abilities he showed off. It only made sense though as Naruto had been pranking left, right and centre since he could first run. In order to do so, he had to have some sort of ingenious creative brain working 24/7. Kakashi -sensei revealed himself as the ANBU Kitsune who took care of Naruto as a kid when the one-eyed man took up the Hokage hat, so of course, he was in on this knowledge.
On the other hand, what surprised them all was Naruto’s freakish ability to just know where everyone was and how they were feeling. It was useful on missions and the like, but still completely unexplainable to any of the members of Team 7. That is until Sasuke returned to Konoha with Team Taka in tow and Karin scoffed and bit out; “It’s an Uzumaki thing, don’t you know?”
And she was proven right as Naruto continued to study for his Jōnin exam and researched into the life of Uzumaki Mīto. A great fūinjutsu master, the first Kyuubi Jinchūriki and the wife of the Shodaime Hokage, Uzumaki Mīto was apparently also a sensor, just like her brother-in-law. However, just like Naruto, because of her exposure to Kurama’s chakra her ability manifested in a decidedly different way.
Instead of being able to sense chakra, she could sense negative emotion. Naruto found his clansman so cool.
After some trial and error, it was evident that Naruto could sense not only negative emotion but also positive ones. Kurama explained it as due to the lack of potency his malicious chakra now held. (Naruto was sure it was just because the Bijū was becoming a soft ball of fluff. He saw the old fox cooing at a memory of Asuma-sensei’s kid!
Long story cut short, Naruto was now an expert on espionage with his new abilities coupled with his newfound acting. And Shikamaru was so lazy that he shrugged and turned his head away after mumbling; “Looks good.”
Iruka-sensei coughed lightly and Naruto blushed and nodded, seeing the silent plea of May I continue now? plastered across his raised eyebrow.
“Right. Team 1 is….”
Naruto already knew it was going to be like this, however being stuck with a mini-Sasuke and mini-Sakura wasn’t where he wanted to be at the current moment. Under no circumstance did he want to see the Uchiha’s old brooding I-want-to-kill-my-brother face nor the former (future?) medic’s Sasuke-kun-please-please-love-me gaze. Well, it wasn’t like he’d murder them or something, but the pain of lost memories would haunt him for a little while,
That left the trio sitting together in one row in dead silence. None of them willing to strike up the conversation.
“Ehehehe… so—” Naruto began after what seemed like decades (15 minutes really).
“Why did you change your clothes Naruto?” Sasuke cut in, boring pitch black eyes into the blond”s skull.
“What?” That definitely wasn’t the first thing the Jinchūriki thought his (future) best friend would say.
“He said why did you change your style Naruto? We thought you loved that stupid jumpsuit of yours.”
“Wait wait wait! What.!” Naruto took a second look at his teammates-to-be. There was neither a gloomy death stare nor a lovesick mooning marring pale skin, only identical looks of amusement on childish, round faces. “Sakura? Sasuke?”
With two firm nods in response, Naruto launched himself at the pair, looping his arms around their head and smacking them together in a painful yet happy sound.
“Holy Kagura! You two are here! With me!” He babbled, “Well, Of course, you’re here with me, but you are here, as in you guys, not Wannabe Avenger and Wannabe Uchiha-san.”
“Hey, I am not a wannabe! I am Uchiha-san.” Sakura huffed and pushed herself out of the embrace to hug Sasuke’s head.
“Well, you were.” Naruto saw Sasuke nod his head in agreement. “See! Sasuke agrees with me!”
They all collapsed into a jumble of laughter, limbs and smiling faces. Even Sasuke, the introverted one was all teeth and tiny chuckles.
“I can’t believe you guys are actually here with me!” Naruto said.
“I can’t believe we’re back in time.” Sakura sourly pointed out, “One moment I was filing medical reports and the next? I wake up with a spoon shoved down my throat and I nearly choked because I was halfway through swallowing.”
“Hn.” Sasuke agreed.
She stood out menacingly, fist out ready to pounce. “If this was your fault,” she cracked her fists, “you understand?”
Naruto nodded his head rapid fire, not wanting to earn Sakura’s ire and therefore her fist through his skull. He thought he could hear Sasuke mumble; ‘Damn that’s hot.’ and couldn’t help but stare incredulously.
Ignoring Sasuke’s statement for another time, the blond stared straight into Sakura’s emerald eyes, “I swear I have no clue how the hell we got here. I have no a why we’re all here together, but I would be more than grateful if you helped me get a hold of the entire situation.”
The girl huffed and relaxed her posture. Sitting back down onto her chair, she pulled out a folder of papers that she definitely didn’t have in the first timeline. “I guess because we’re all here together, we may as well as plan for the future. I mean, if we’re here, we might as well change something, because there is no way in hell I’m letting this one—” she jabbed her thumb at Sasuke, “—run off like a lunatic in search for power.”
Sasuke seemed unphased as he continued her topic, “I, myself, would prefer not to go to that pedophile—“
“Ooh! I knew the snake guy was a pedophile!”
“—and I would like it if I were able to save my brother.”
Naruto hummed in agreement. “The future we got was pretty good, all things considered, However, it could definitely be better.” His breath hitched, “Neji…”
Naruto could sense the sadness welling up in his friend’s chakras urging his own energy to feel the same. “But we’ll change all that!” He proclaimed standing up, “We may have been weak the first time, we may have been helpless, useless, led astray… however…. We now have power! We have knowledge, we have experience! And now,”
“We can change everything! Now, who’s with me?”
A pause, “Your motivational speeches are getting better.” Sasuke frowned, “How is that possible?”
Before they could break up into their usual juvenile arguing, Sakura butted in saying, “First up, can you still speak to Kurama?”
Naruto paused. “Uh…” he smiled sheepishly and rubbed the back of his head. “I… actually have not yet tried yet.”
The glare was more than enough to get him scrambling into his mindscape.
Purposefully getting into his mindscape was always a nauseating ordeal because it always felt like the first jolt of free falling coupled with a maddening ache behind his eyes. However, it was never something that he could get used to because the feeling would only linger for one moment before dissipating into Naruto’s dark, dank mindscape.
“Man, I really need to change this scenery,” Naruto said, “Sewers just don’t go with my fluffy personality.”
With a bit of concentration of a much, much happier place, the area around Naruto began to shimmer like mist. Fading into a dark cloudy fog, Naruto opened his eyes and cursed.
“Ugh, still not there yet.” He muttered and tried again. He only managed to change his mindscape into the same shining fog that he met his chakra-construct pseudo-mother.
Thinking hard about home, he imagined the shape, size and texture of the Hokage monument, he imagined each and every carve of the face, the paint he forgot to clean at 13, the small niche where he loved to sit on his father’s messy spikes.
And this time, when he did open his eyes, he found himself standing on the clearing at the very top of the Hokage monument plateau. Behind him was a few new residential houses however and in front laid the colourful, crisscrossing view of Konoha’s architecture. Satisfied with his work, Naruto nodded folding his arms in triumph.
Summoning a deep breath, Naruto hollered, “KURAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”
Two beats and a huff of annoyance then a long, elongated, sleepy yawn.
Spinning around to expecting to see a giant mesh of orange fur, Naruto, unfortunately, was left quite disappointed. Instead, what he did see was a tiny, adorable, fuzzy ball curled into itself. With a yawn and stretch, the little creature rolled out of it’s laying position to sit right down in front of Naruto.
“Kura...ma!?!” Naruto jumped, “Oh my holy mother-fucking Kagura!!! He knelt down to the baby kit and wailed, “What has Kami-sama done to you?!”
He growled in what was most likely supposed to be menacing but came out in a falsetto yip, “Does it look like I want to be like this?” His odd bipedal hands came to wrap around his blue collar! “Look at me! I’m tied up! Like a pet!”
The blond just couldn’t keep it in. Like a flood, the laughter began pouring out of his mouth and attacking at his sides.
“Shut up you imbecile! Hurry up and get this stupid seal off me!” He squealed.
Naruto took one more side glance at the baby fox and continued to laugh harder than before. “Oh my—hahaha—god! pfffttttt! L-look at you! You’re—“ he gestured aimlessly towards the bijū’s body, “CUTE!”
In the five minutes it took Naruto to get a grip of himself, Kurama did not look amused. Rather he had the very scary glare on his face that made Naruto remember the Kyuubi’s… delinquent days. Well, they do say once a delinquent, always a delinquent, right?
Frowning slightly, Naruto stared at the seal collar, “I… I don’t have the key.”
“WHAT?!” Kurama pawed at his collar, “NO! No, no, no, no, no, NO!!! Geddit off me! Geddit off me!” He rolled around on the floor with his hind legs, locked under the offending piece of leather trying with no avail to rip the seal off.
“I’m sorry!” Naruto’s hands found themselves wrung into his blond locks, “I barely know any fūinjutsu! The eight trigram is so complicated!”
Kurama bared his teeth. “Then learn, you idiotic kit! I refuse to have this—this collar on me! It’s degrading!”
The blond grimaced, while Naruto began learning fūinjutsu after the fourth shinobi war and was good enough to set out a number of nasty traps, he hated reading. His handwriting may have gotten better since his Jōnin exam, but his dislike for reading was still as prevalent as ever. Without a teacher (which he had not had since Jiraiya) the amount of reading he would be required to do just to familiarise himself with different seals would be enormous.
“I’ll get to it.” He muttered reluctantly. “Oh… Kurama! Ero-sēnin! He’s… he’s still alive, right? Because we’re in the past, right? How did we even get into the past? I’m so confused? Hey? Hey? Kurama? Please help me! Or Sakura’s gonna murder me and chuck my ass back to the Hokage mountain!”
“Naruto! Shut it!” Kurama snapped, “I have no idea why, what, or how we’re here. I simply remember my chakra draining rapidly the night before last and I just thought you were sleep training or drunk.”
Earning himself a sheepish apology, the fox scoffed, “Yeah, yeah. Just don’t do it again.”
“Thanks, Rama-chan. I’ll go tell Sasuke and Sakura about this and maybe they’ll cobble up some theory.”
“You better.” He said, “Look at me!” He moaned in dismay.
Getting out of his mindscape was arguably easier than falling into it, in the sense that it was far less nauseating. Rather than the pitfall feeling that entering his mindscape gave, getting back to the real world was more of an exhilarating, chakra-enforced jump from the bottom of the Hokage monuments to the plateau above. Though, when Naruto thought about it, it was confusing because the movement he made to exit his mindscape was actually jumping off the plateau. He always knew he was weird and he supposed his mind simply reflected that.
“Kurama has no idea.” was the first thing Naruto blurted out when he opened his eyes.
“Huh…” Sakura mumbled as she sat hunched to Naruto’s left over a scroll. “Well, I wasn’t expecting much.”
“But! He did say that he remembered that not last night, but the night before, he experienced a large chakra drain.” Naruto recounted, “Other than that? ...Nothing.”
“Well, so far on our list of potential suspects we’ve got Kagura, Akatsuki, a follower of Kagura, Naruto—”
“—Hey! Why am I on that list?!”
“—Kakashi-sensei’s prank, random enemy ninja genjutsu, Orochimaru went psycho again and Naruto.”
“As I said, why am I on the list?! And twice?!” Naruto cried, “You with such little faith! I have you know I’m next in line to be Hokage!”
“Actually…” Sasuke whispered conspiratory, “In this time, it’s Tsunade first. And even then it’s going to be Kakashi-sensei. You’re not going to be Hokage for years, if you even do get there, deadlast.”
“If someone can manage to force the hat on him,” Sakura interjected.
But the damage was done and Naruto wilted into his seat. “I’m sorry I’m deadlast…” He whinged, “But I’m going to Hokage, dattebayo…! I’ll prove both of you wrong!”
“Uhuh.” Sakura nodded, “Turn it down a little Naruto, I’m writing here.”
“Hmm?” He hummed, “What are you writing?”
“List of priorities.”
“Sakura…” Naruto said, “Have I ever told you I love you? Lemme see what you’ve written.”
Forking over the scroll to the blond, Naruto squinted his eyes. “Uh… Sakura… What exactly does this say?”
“What do you mean?” She furrowed her brow, “It says plainly; Genin Exam, Wave mission, Chunin Exam, Orochimaru, Invasion.”
“Dude! I can’t read it!” He screamed, waving around the scroll, “How can you read this? How can you write this?” Twisting around his female teammate, he shoved the writing in his dark-haired friend. “Can you read this?”
“Your handwriting is really bad Sakura.” Sasuke intoned.
“See!” Naruto yelled, “Not even he can read this—this—this chicken scratch!”
“Hey!” She growled back, snatching the scroll from his fingers. “This is how all medics write. This is how Tsunade-shisou writes! I’d like to see you do any better!”
Sticking up his chin, Naruto grinned. Motioning for the scroll and brush, Sakura shoved it into his hands roughly. Dipping the brush into the liquid ink, Naruto beckoning for Sakura to dictate.
“Under Genin Exam write we need to confirm or scrap our theory of this being Kakashi-sensei’s idea of a prank. If so, then we prank him back thrice as hard, if not… then we’ll just settle for twice.” She took a sneak peek at her blond friend’s handwriting. “HOW?!”
Hearing the commotion, Sasuke also took a look at Naruto’s handwriting. While he did not scream like Sakura, he had an equally flabbergasted expression pasted on his face.
“Ehehehe~” Naruto rubbed his nose in embarrassment. “Fūinjutsu practice. Kakashi-sensei was teaching me the basics.”
“Ok. Great.” Sakura shrugged, “You’re scribe from now on.”
“My first impression of you is…” Kakashi looked at blank faces. “...You’re all creepy. I don’t like you.”
The blond—Minato-sensei’s son—fist pumped. “Yes! It worked!”
“I would say we’re sorry for the chalk duster…” The pink-haired girl said, “but... You made us wait nearly five hours, so I say Naruto’s justified.”
How uncute these three children were. Like most kids they were rude, but rather than the childish naivety that usually radiated off of academy graduates, they seemed to possess blatant disregard for authority figures. Naruto, he could understand with his Uzumaki heritage and ease around most of the village’s elite jōnin and ANBU. However the Uchiha had manners pounded into him from birth and Haruno was civilian—they were all about manners. Strange.
Then again... it could just be his age. He was 2* years old. (His age was classified information, just like his likes, dislikes, hobbies and face.)
“Meet me on the roof in five.” He disappeared in an especially potent cloud of smoke, just to fuck with the three brats. He waited on the roof feeling the wind rippling in his hair before whipping out his favoured orange book and let the time fly by.
It was nearly twenty minutes before the orange, pink and blue brats appeared on the terrace, each with a… a steaming hot cup of instant noodles…
Slurping extra long, the blond brat offered, “Want some?”
The eyebrow hidden under his hi-tae twitched violently against the blue fabric, “Maa, I think I’m alright…” He couldn’t be sure if the little pranking demon had laced the food with laxative or something else equally as nasty.
“Well, let’s begin with introducing yourselves,” Kakashi said, pocketing his book. He surveyed the kids—and damn, they were small—“Let’s start with you blondie.”
He got three loud slurps in return.
“Never mind. I’ll start instead.” Kakashi sweatdropped. “My name is Hatake Kakashi. I have many likes, I have many dislikes and hobbies. Lots of hobbies. I have no desire whatsoever to tell you my dreams for the future.”
Instead of angry looks or growls, he received the same blank-faced looks from the classroom. “O-okay… Have you finished your food yet blondie?”
Another elongated slurp and a flash of cream coloured noodles then a loud, sudden burp. “A-OK Kakashi-sensei!” He relinquished his hold of his cup and set down his chopsticks. “My name is Uzumaki Naruto, I like—THE HOLY RAMEN—orange, foxes and my friends. I dislike…” He thought about his answer hard, eyes squinting in exertion. “The three minutes it takes for instant ramen to cook and… Pedos?”
The blond earned a hard kick in the shins from his male teammate.
“Ow! That hurt!” But he continued after the rather good stink eye Uchiha gave him. “My hobbies are training, playing with Rama-chan and practising my handwriting.”
“You do that now?” Haruno questioned with a raised eyebrow. “Actually, nevermind.”
Naruto stuck his tongue out and reached for a scroll inside from the inside of his jacket. Pushing a considerable amount of chakra, which really wasn’t much when one considered the Kyuubi, and produced a small cup of… ramen (Figures.) and a thermos of hot water.
“...Your dream…?” Kakashi prodded, watching as the brat poured water into his snack. Didn’t he know that eating in front of superiors was rude?
“Ah, yeah! My dream!” Naruto set down the thermos and noodles, “My dream is to become Hokage and create world peace!”
It was interesting enough, the way that Minato-sensei and Kushina-nee-san’s child grew up. Never would have Kakashi expected that the kid would have grown up to be… just like them.
“I’ll go next,” Haruno spoke up from the other side of the cute semicircle the kids made. “My name is Haruno Sakura. I like mitarashi Dango, studying and this guy—” she jabbed her thumb at Sasuke who grunted in an ‘hn’. “I dislike puppets. They’re evil.”
The three of them shuddered almost thematically.
“My hobbies are studying and cooking?”
The shudder from the Uchiha was so violent, the jonin was nearly convinced he was having a seizure.
“What?!” She growled but the boy wisely stayed silent, “Hmph! My dream in the future is to become the world’s greatest, badass, motherfucking medic even better than Senjū Tsunade!”
...that was really unexpected. Super unexpected. Naruto had great genes working for him, so of course, he would be interesting. But Haruno Sakura? She was a weak bookworm from a civilian ninja family. While both capable shinobi, neither would be able to teach the girl the pure guts she displayed before him. At the rate it was going, Kakashi almost didn’t want to hear the Uchiha’s self-introduction.
“Alright, now broody over there?” Kakashi said.
“Hn.” He grunted.
After three beats and another long slurp of noodles, Kakashi found himself unnerved by the silence.
“Um…? Could you repeat that?”
“My gosh sensei!” Haruno interrupted, “Stop asking poor Sasuke-kun to repeat himself! He already said so much!”
“Yeah, yeah, dattebayo!” Naruto backed her up, “He already talked so much about his love of tomatoes and training!”
The triplet stares were more than just a little unnerving. And creepy. Damn these brats were creepy as hell.
“O...kay…” The copy-cat ninja said, “Now that introductions are complete, we can start out our official duties as Shinobi tomorrow.”
Anticipating Naruto to start bouncing up and down and start pressing for details, Kakashi paused.
“Uh…” The silence really was bad for his self-esteem. Kids could be so cruel. “We’ll be doing survival training, with me as your opponent. And… out of the 27 graduates from this year, only nine are accepted as true genins! This training is actually your true exam with a fail rate of over 66.6%!”
However, instead of gasps, wide eyes or an eruption of argument, Kakashi seemed to have gotten the odd batch who simply shrugged (or slurped noodles) and said, “Well, that means we have a 33.3% chance of passing. I’ll take the odds.”
“Yeah, you said it! Sakura, we’re with you! We worked so hard, we might as well see it through!” Naruto fist pumped.
Uchiha smacked the boy in the head and growled, “Stop rhyming, you imbecile.”
“Awwwww~” The boy made pouty lips to the other, “But it’s sooooo cool, dattebayo!”
Kakashi coughed to remind the two of his presence. It was really odd to see such confidence in children. That or all the kids he had gotten before were spineless.
“Anyway, bring all your shinobi tools; kunai, shuriken, ninja wire—you name it—to Training Ground 3 at 7000 hrs... Oh, and…” He grinned wryly at the lie at the tip of his tongue, “I highly suggest not to eat breakfast. You may just end up throwing it back out.”
Still three highly attentive stares. “Um, dismissed?”
Tossing the three files into the odd but strangely well-placed bonfire situated on the side of Training Ground 3, Kakashi couldn't help but growl. Honestly, the IT department only had one job! (Or at least only one that was important to the jōnin’s current occupation.)
While his opinion of children and teaching was constant for the half a dozen years he was asked, the information given from the IT department was generally spot on with a few small variables changing due to the uncanny, unpredictability of children. However, this year, Kakashi was afraid that whoever the Yamanaka clan leader hired to scope out the academy student’s personalities was a sham. They deserved to get hit with a Katon then speared in the gut with a Rakiri because the only thing that Kakashi was sure that they got correct was their favourite foods. Even a civilian would be able to find out that much without prompting.
First and foremost was the file containing the information regarding the precious last loyal Uchiha. That boy was sure to be a truckload of problems with plenty to share due to the lack of emotional consideration the council held for their citizens, shinobi or not, it was in Kakashi’s professional opinion that the Uchiha should have had at least therapy. (Another reason he wasn’t teacher material. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ wasn’t the best teaching method, was it?). The boy was immature, arrogant and power-hungry without any mentor or role model to follow other than the skewed image of his family left in his head.
However, after some consideration and observation (and stalking), Kakashi was quick to see that the Uchiha boy was none of those things. Rather than immature, he was polite and reasonable, able to be the bigger man in a frontal confrontation. Rather than arrogant, he was simply introverted and unsure how to interact with his peers (quite unlike Kakashi’s childhood superiority complex). And most of all, Uchiha Sasuke was content, not at all lusting for power before his time. Failing to succumb to the promise of a promotion, he was quick to cooperate with his new teammates and wasn’t at all hesitant to relinquish control to the two other fresh graduates.
After came Naruto. The son of Kakashi’s teacher had grown into a really spectacular kid. Just like his dark-haired teammate, Kakashi had no clue how he grew up to possess such an amazing personality layered with sunshine, daisies and pure adulterated happiness. Expecting stupid moves and idiotic traps, Naruto actually managed to outmaneuver his every move, manipulating each and every situation into his favour. And when he pulled out that stupid Fūinjutsu...Kakashi blamed Kushina-nee-san. But out of the three, the most surprising was definitely their final teammate; Haruno Sakura.
Generally, the academy didn’t tend to spit out civilian ninja—or kunoichi for that matter—during peacetime because the training was far more relaxed. As a result, Konoha ended up with the classes chock full of weak, useless fangirls who only knew how to pick flowers and give meagre first aid. So much for being sexist because they weren't even taught seduction for heaven’s sake!
However, his first meeting with her (and the rest of the brats) blew his mind out of the water at her incredible taijutsu skills and heavy-hitting blows. Coupled with the fact that she and her new genin brats knew how to walk on trees, seeing the pink haired girl rip her (supposedly precious) pink locks to shreds only to use it for a distraction left Kakashi wishing murder on the idiot who wrote that she was a weak bookworm.
Actually, he was ready to slowly impale them onto a pike and watch as they slowly suffered in agony with Obito’s Sharingan. If he did it properly, then he was sure that the poor sucker would feel every painful moment for the next week before dying due to the pain and blood loss. Somehow, he was sure the Hokage would not agree.
It was one thing that they had passed, it was another that he was dripping head to toe with… paint, orange, red and blue paint to be exact. Three guesses to the culprits? Well, Kakashi was at least happy that his precious orange book was saved from the chaos of flying colours (other than the three blobs of each which lined the inside of the first page). It was a special edition signed copy which the masked ninja had to stand in line for three hours in a special henge. Needless to say, it’s continued survival made his jump for joy.
Measuring the angle of the sun to the memorial stone, Kakashi judged it to be just before 1400 hrs and about time for him to show up in front of the Sandiame. He grimaced at his dirty uniform and the humiliation he was about to receive from his fellow jōnins, however, he made a promise a long time ago that he would never be more than three hours late for a meeting with his superiors. The promise made with a different leader, but still applied heavy to the very day and Kakashi all but teleported to the Hokage’s office, hoping not to be seen by anyone (especially Gai).
After a too short trip, Kakashi was before the simple yet elegant door to the Hokage office. The door was once very extravagant, he had heard once when he was smaller, however, after many Katon from Uchiha Madara, Sūiton from Senjū Tobirama, and a bunch of other miscellaneous attacks over several decades, the door was replaced with a cheap alternative lacking all the artisan carvings. Despite all this minimalistic design, Kakashi couldn't help but feel his paranoia spike up uncontrollably. If he were to open the door, there would be no going back.
From what? Kakashi was not keen to find out, however, over two decades of ninja service had taught the dog summoner that risks were sometimes necessary and inevitably unavoidable.
“Yo!” Kakashi grinned, entering the room to what would probably been his own doom, “Sorry I’m late. A black cat—”
“—crossed your path and you had to take the long way, right?” A red-eyed kūnoichi, Yūhi Kurenai, if Kakashi was correct, a genjutsu specialist.
He shrugged in response then continued, “Actually, I was going to say splashed me with blue paint then his redhead and blonde friends attacked me too.”
The Hokage chuckled in that slow agonising way that the elderly did, and smiled grandfatherly, “Why Kakashi, you’re actually right on time, we were just about to mention you. However, I wasn’t expecting you for another two and a half hours… or dripping in paint.”
The jōnin glanced at his red stained feet and the multicoloured footsteps trailing into the room. “Eh… occupational hazard?” he asked sheepishly, glad that he continued to wear his black mask even until adulthood, despite the Hatake law only requiring it until Chūnin. Taking out his favourite book from his pocket Kakashi continued, “Regardless, because I’m already here, I’ll give my report.”
“Haruno Sakura, Uchiha Sasuke and Uzumaki Naruto pass the bell test,” he droned, ignoring some of the gasps from the other sensei, “Haruno displayed strong taijutsu and use of chakra control. If willing, she would be a perfect frontlines doctor like Senjū Tsunade.”
From the corner of his eye, Kakashi saw the Chūnin instructor, formerly in charge of his new students, frown. The wrinkle in his nose scrunched up his horizontal scar which admittedly was actually quite cute—nononono, no. No more improper thoughts about colleagues. Anko was more than enough.
Kakashi made sure that his eyes did not trail away from the three coloured blobs at the corner of his page. “Uchiha proved to be the top of his class, using quick reflexes and impressive use of his Katon. In the future, he could be a versatile Ninjutsu master and even a Genjutsu specialist once he awakens his Sharingan. And finally Uzumaki Naruto…”
Feeling tension building up in the room due to the mention of the boy Kakashi was pressed to finish, “Uzumaki, while originally seen to be dense and reckless, proved that he can possibly shine as a trap specialist as he utilised not only an impressive knowledge of Fūinjutsu but also managed to fool me into thinking that he was a simple idiot.” Kakashi felt the embarrassment welling inside from his gut due to his blunder. Better, older and more experienced shinobi had fallen from a similar lack of foresight, but he should have known better. “It is also possible that he either has increased senses or can sense chakra as he was able to locate me observing them from outside. If this talent is honed, then he may also be a great tracker.”
The Hokage hummed as he took in the information, withdrawing his pipe from his mouth, he exhaled a long stream of smoke. “This is quite unexpected…” He sighed, old age showing even more than before, “Team 7 has always been composed of a band of misfits… however, this year, it seems that this team will work better than ever.”
“Hokage-sama, if I may,” Kakashi said politely even though his eyes never trailed from his book, “I believe that Team 7 would most highly benefit Konoha as a Relief Team.”
“...Are you sure?” The Hokage made eye contact with Kakashi and never once did the younger man deny the power he saw hiding under the surface of those pools. “There hasn’t been a proper Relief Team since…”
Kakashi gritted his teeth behind his mask. He already knew. It was nearly 13 ago when he, Rin and Obito had been drawn together to form a Relief Team consisting of a Tracker, Medic and Ninjutsu specialist respectively.
The Hokage coughed and wisely avoided completing the sentence. “Very well, Team 7 will be a Relief Team. Team 8?”
The Yūhi woman stepped up with a nod. She was definitely a new jōnin, heightened by the tenseness of her shoulders.
”Team 8 will be a Tracking Team as planned. Hinata is proficient in her clan techniques. While she is still in her shell, I feel that being in this team will slowly let her gain confidence. Kiba and Akamaru are the same however they have the opposite problem if being too boisterous. Shino, on the other hand, is antisocial and he and Kiba got into fights constantly but his clan techniques are developing nicely.”
”Thank you Kurenai-kun.” Naruto nodded. ”As Team 9 is still in circulation, Team 10?”
The Hokage’s second son stepped forward, the casual slump of his shoulders not different from Kakashi’s own. ”Eh… Team 10 is the second generation Ino-Shika-Cho is a boom, however…” He took a drag of his cigarette. ”They’re not very motivated. Ino only thinks of boys, Choji only thinks of food and Shikamaru’s head is always in the clouds. But they’ll get there. Eventually.”
A shake of the head.
”Team 12? 13? 14? 15?” Each was met with a negative sign of affirmation.
With another puff, the Sandaime slumped into his seat. “Only three teams?” With only silence as a response, he seemed to sit deeper and deeper into his chair until he was swallowed whole. “The numbers are getting less and less every year…”
Kakashi was no stranger to the longing look the man cast upon his figure then saw as he cast another look to the portrait of Sensei laying flushed against the door. With another puff of smoke from the pipe, the jōnin were dismissed and Kakashi was left with a heavy feeling in his heart.
Mouth dry and mouth failing, Kakashi had nothing to say that could comfort their aging leader. The bad taste seemed to worsen with every step of the way. But he was only one jōnin. One exceptionally talented jōnin, but a jōnin nevertheless and the only way the Hokage could finally rest would be to have a successor take the hat. Kage level shinobi were far and few in between. The closest matches would be Jiraiya and Senjū Tsunade of the Sannin, however, both were forever ostracised from the village. If only Minato-sensei were alive. Or even Obito who always—badbadbadbadbad thoughts.
Kakashi couldn’t think of the lives he ruined just to save his own skin. He couldn’t think of the children whose lives would be ruined just by being in his presence.
Those who disobey the rules are trash, but those who abandon their friends are worse than trash.