Author Note

Hi there and welcome to another chapter of Nidaime no Sairin.

In this chapter, I will finish the Wave mission and follow-up with training and a fateful meeting.

Usually, I would comment about the reviews from the last chapter, but I'm starting to feel it's pointless. Okay, I get it. This version of Naruto is not the same as canon. Seriously, anyone who has read my other stories already knows that, by now, I wouldn't waste my time writing Kishimoto's version of him. This Naruto is different and as such he will make different choices in life. Unlike in canon, he had extensive training before starting his genin life and from a person who imparted in Naruto's personality some notions that will certainly differ from canon, so obviously his life choices will be different. He will be more controlled, more subtle and certainly more skilled. I'm not saying that Naruto will become a second Nidaime…he still has his mother's heart, after all.

So, for anyone who does not wish to read a different Naruto, please don't bother.

It's nice to read constructive reviews about my work and even helpful criticism, but it's a pain to read people simply criticizing the choices I make, going forward.

With that being said, on with the chapter.

Nidaime no Sairin

Chapter 10 – Wave Mission Final Part

Beta: Scheffinator

Naruto just stood there staring at the downed hunter-nin on the ground. His sword was still held in a way that if Haku tried something, Naruto would be ready for it. Though, now, Naruto realized that the drop of blood that hailed from the steel he held was from the very same boy that he had met just the other day. The very same boy who had instilled in him a life-time lesson. However, that was before the very same boy revealed to be the enemy that aided Zabuza in escaping.

"Why…" Haku never kept his eyes away from Naruto, before hearing that simple word and question. While it was simple, it allowed a great many sets of memories in Haku's mind as he stood up with great difficulty.

"Why indeed, Naruto-kun…" The blood line that fell from his mouth did little to stop the smile on his face, but Naruto instinctively knew the emptiness it portrayed. The eyes did so as well.

"Why are you siding with a man like Zabuza, after that nonsense you spoke about being strong and protecting…" Haku stood silent as Naruto vented. "The number of people he had murdered, the atrocities he had committed." Haku looked like he couldn't care less, however.

"Aren't you going to kill me, Naruto-kun…I am after all the enemy, right? Why bother talking about it?" Naruto snarled and then used a shunshin right in front of Haku, surprising the hunter ninja at the speed of it, before he saw Naruto's fist slam at his side cheek, sending Haku towards the ground in even more pain now than before. Haku could certainly feel the boy's anger in that punch and he realized that he had indeed struck a nerve. The Konoha genin, for his part, was indeed furious at this point. But then he calmed himself, remembering the Nidaime's teaching about letting out emotion in the middle of a mission no less. Haku was busy massaging his jaw, wondering if Naruto had broken it, based on the pain.

"You would need more than that to kill me, Naruto-kun…or is it possible you're feeling pity for me…or is it possible that you have yet to kill someone?"

While it was true that Naruto had never taken a life, his hesitation to finish the mission was more in terms of getting to know the reason than him freezing up at the doing the final deed. Learning to breathe easily, Naruto then lowers his sword, an act that seems to invite Haku to strike him, but the constant flaring of his chakra dared Haku not to move an inch or else Naruto would indeed finish him. That alone displayed to the hunter ninja that he was completely wrong in his assumption of the Konoha genin.

"While it's true that I have yet to take a life, rest assured that I won't hesitate in doing so to finish the mission…I still wonder why Haku. Why would you of all people associate with someone like Zabuza?"

"That's easy…I owe him my life." Haku understood the look of skepticism that Naruto showed in response. "Do you know how it feels Naruto, to not be needed by anyone? To live day to day without a dream, the pain of it all."

"What's that got to do with anything…" Naruto couldn't hide it from Haku, though.

"I can see in your eyes that you do understand what I'm saying Naruto-kun, you can't hide it from me." Naruto snarled, but looked down briefly. The memories of his ill treatment from the village and how ignored he was by everyone as if he didn't even exist in the first place. If It weren't for the Nidaime Hokage deciding to at least give some of the answers he sought, he would remain oblivious to the reason to this day. Nowadays, Naruto has a drive…to follow in the Nidaime's legacy…to protect Konoha and its citizens, whether everyone acknowledges him or not.

"I do remember you saying how strong you are when you have someone to protect…but why him, he can't be the only one special in your life to protect."

"A long time ago, I had other people special to me…my parents." Naruto's glare softened at the mention and his mind couldn't help but draw parallels with Haku's life, except that whereas Haku had his parents, Naruto was born without his. Still, as he looked in Haku's eyes, Naruto could see deep pain in them, despite Haku's facial expression appearing stoic. "I was born in the Land of Water, in a village constantly punished by snow. My parents worked on a small farm. We didn't have much, but my parents seemed to be satisfied with it…a simple life. I was really happy at the time to have such loving parents." Naruto tsked at the mention of having loving parents, but he couldn't help himself.

"I'm glad one of us got to meet them, at least." Haku looked up and crossed eyes with the blond for a while, already understanding a bit of Naruto's sob story, through his tone alone. Everyone had one, after all.

"Yes, but it all changed once I got old enough to understand some things…" This time, Naruto looked at something else he didn't recognize in Haku's eyes. He saw hollow eyes looking back at him. Undeterred, the hunter ninja continued. "My blood, I realized, is both a gift and a curse in the land I was born. After the bloody civil war that happened in Kirigakure, those with kekkei genkai became feared…my mother had the same ability as I do, but fearing for her own life as well as mine, she hid her own abilities. One time, I managed to awaken mine and I showed it to her. I was so happy back then…but my mother wasn't. She tried to hide it from others, especially my father, but he ended up seeing it."

"What did he do?" It was a question that Naruto dreaded the answer to, but he said it before he even realized it.

"My father killed my mother…and he tried to kill me as well." Naruto's eyes widened at that as Haku remembered the scene quite vividly in his mind, well not all of it at the time, but afterward. He remembered being inside their house and backed into a corner while his own father, in tears, lifted a knife to kill him. Then, a tiny black-haired child slowly walks outside the snow in a catatonic state of mind, before falling on the deep snow. The house where they lived was filled with gigantic ice stakes that killed everyone inside, including his own father. He described it just as he remembered to Naruto, who stood there transfixed, not able to mutter a single word in reply.

"When I came to, I realized that I had killed my own father. It was right there that I realized the most painful thing…that my existence didn't matter to anyone else in the world."

Naruto's chest clenched right there at the familiar feeling of being forgotten in his home village.

"Zabuza-sama was the one who gave me a purpose…even if he only needed me to be a weapon for his ambitions." This time, Naruto was even more unsettled by the sudden smile in Haku's face. "And so, I became a weapon for gave me a purpose…a reason to live. But all changed once more, Naruto-kun, because of you…because of you, I can no longer become a weapon for Zabuza-sama, you have rid me of my purpose, Naruto-kun, so all there is left is for you to kill me!" Naruto tensed as Haku walked towards him as he positioned his sword in preparation for the final deed. Naruto moved in for the kill and Haku would have let him do it, if not for the feeling he felt that his master needed his last drop of chakra right now.

===With Kakashi and Zabuza===

Hatake Kakashi had yet to land a hit on the elusive swordsman shinobi and right now, he was staring at the bloody mist that managed to hide Zabuza's location and quite frankly, he was getting sick of the hit and run tactic. Because of the heavy mist, he couldn't see if his students were okay. Asuma could very well be battling Raiga and Sasuke and Naruto were busy with the hunter ninja. Kakashi was under the clock right now and the thought of losing one of his teammates made him tremble inside.

"What do you say we finish this with one last move, Zabuza?" Kakashi had grabbed a scroll from his kunai pouch and danced with it for a while, before positioning it in between his fingers as he made hand seals.

Ninpou Kuchiyose: Doton Tsuiga no Jutsu (Ninja Art Summoning – Earth Release: Tracking Fang Technique)

When he slammed the scroll on the ground, various streams of kanji letters came out from the scroll towards the bridge floor, but nothing else happened. And Zabuza, despite being hidden by the mist, managed to see Kakashi's moves. Despite being ready for anything, Zabuza was aware that Kakashi didn't know of his location, so it would be impossible for whatever technique Kakashi attempted to reach him, let alone become threatening enough. Deep within the mist, Zabuza stood with the ram signal with his eyes closed, all but ready to make his move that would finally kill the sharingan user. Zabuza, though, was surprised when he felt the bridge floor tremble, before a bunch of ninken emerged and sank their teeth on him in many parts of his body, entrapping him.

Kakashi then walked towards the location of his dogs, before seeing Zabuza held at bay by his dogs.

"This is the summoning jutsu specialized for pursuit…I deliberately shed my own blood to stop your attacks for this. Your weapon has a thick scent of my blood on them, so my ninken took care of the rest."

Despite being trapped, Zabuza kept the bluff going.

"I have had enough of your bluffs, Kakashi."

"You can stop acting tough, you are trapped right now. I don't know why you wrongly believed that I only got by because of the sharingan. So, I shall kill you with a jutsu of my own creation." Doing a short sequence of hand seals, Kakashi then focused both on chakra shape manipulation and chakra element manipulation. As he positioned his right hand upward, Zabuza's eyes widened at the sudden dance of lightning chakra around the Sharingan warrior. He couldn't believe his eyes as he could see Kakashi's hand overflowing with chakra. It was such a daunting image of Kakashi controlling pure lightning with his hand. Still, Zabuza stood proudly, despite knowing he was about to get skewered by that assassination technique.

"You are too dangerous to be left alive, Zabuza. Your future is death." Kakashi then charged with his lightning infused hand and stopped inches from Zabuza's position as he attacked the man, only for his eyes to widen.

Kakashi was surprised when the hunter ninja appeared in front of Zabuza, taking the brunt of his Raikiri. The look of pure shock from the hunter ninja was forever memorized in Kakashi's mind because of the Sharingan, just like the image of what happened to his teammate a long time ago. It was so similar that Kakashi froze in time, while the ninken released Zabuza. Kakashi's eyes were trembling at the trauma of his past, while Zabuza smirked in triumph at Haku from protecting him. He was about to finish Kakashi with his sword when Asuma approached and cut Zabuza's arm off with his wind-chakra knife. Asuma saw everything, just as the mist subsided somewhat. The bearded jounin managed to reach Kakashi's position in time, after sealing the body of Raiga and the Kiba blades.

Kakashi was awakened from his nightmare as soon as he heard Zabuza screaming in pain at losing his arm off.

Haku by this point just fell on the ground, dead, after being pierced by Kakashi's technique. When the mist subsided, the consequences of the battles were clear to the jounin as he looked to see Naruto look at their direction with a snarl on his face and Sasuke on the ground looking like a pincushion. However, Naruto didn't appear to be concerned about Sasuke, so it could mean that the Uchiha was only unconscious. Kakashi then looked at Asuma who was facing the irate Zabuza. At this point, Zabuza couldn't hope to become much of a threat now with one arm and without Kubikirobocho. Still, he still stood there, flaring his chakra while Asuma and Kakashi eyed his every move.

===With Sakura and the others===

The rest of the genin had managed to beat the thugs and then tied them up so that none of them could offer a threat anymore. When the mist finally subsided, the tension also subsided as Shikamaru and Kiba looked around for the other fights. Hinata and Sakura both looked at Sasuke and Naruto's direction and Sakura gasped at seeing the Uchiha on the ground, filled with senbon all over his body. Sakura right there and then abandoned the mission as she ran towards the downed Sasuke, before Hinata could stop her.

"Go with her, Hinata...we can protect Tazuna." She turned to Shikamaru and nodded, before following the pink-haired genin. The bridge builder could only release a sigh in relaxation as he could feel his heart beating once more.

He really wondered if he would die of a heart attack before any of Gatou's goons managed to kill him.

Naruto was eyeing the downed Haku on the ground, before turning to see Sakura tending Sasuke on the ground, which made him turn at attention to see about the unconscious Uchiha.

"Naruto, what happened to him….is he…?" He offered a resigned smile at Sakura just as Hinata arrived after her.

"Relax Sakura, he is only unconscious."

The news was met with happiness by the pink-haired genin as she stood next to the Uchiha, waiting for him to wake up. Naruto then turned to focus on Haku with a far-off look on his face. Hinata then approached him and placed a comforting pair of hands on his bleeding arm, making Naruto turn to her now, remembering that Haku's metal and ice senbon managed to draw blood from him as well. Offering a smile at the Hyuuga in reassurance, the timid girl was glad that he was alright, though something else was amiss…as Naruto was still eyeing the downed hunter-ninja with a far-off look on his face. The look unsettled her greatly. Naruto was her sun…and to see him saddened with a lost look in his eyes, she couldn't help but ask…trying to reach out to him, just like he would do for her.

"Are you alright, Naruto-kun?" The blond genin merely glanced at Hinata, before looking at Haku once more. Hinata found the lack of answer troubling until Naruto turned his attention solely to her.

"No, I'm not alright, Hinata, but I will be, thank you." He may no longer have the same smile on his face, but she stood at ease, knowing that whatever is going through his mind right now, he will be able to overcome it.

It is what he is best at and it only serves to inspire her even more.

Back with the jounin and Zabuza, the kiri-nin was already considering his plans to escape. With Haku now dead and facing two jounin with only one arm, his odds were less than zero of surviving. Plus, he needed to close the wound right away or else he would bleed to death. Even now, he could barely hold his own consciousness at the great pain inflicted by a clean cut of wind chakra. As such, Zabuza was about to use the heavy mist for his escape when he heard the all too familiar cane echoing throughout the bridge floor.

"Well, well, so it seems you failed yet again Zabuza." Looking to the side, a rather short bald guy with glasses wearing a black business suit appeared in front of a group of mercenaries as his bodyguards. "Even when you asked me for more money to hire yet another missing-nin, you still failed…pitiful, quite pitiful indeed." Gatou, the owner of Gatou Industries only smirked at the look he was receiving from Zabuza at this point. It got worse as the midget was standing close to Haku's body and the businessman remembered the pain he felt when Haku broke his arm. Zabuza couldn't help but snarl as Gatou started kicking the dead hunter-nin, in a pitiful attempt of revenge. If Zabuza wasn't facing two jounin at the moment, he would simply murder Gatou right there for his actions.

Everyone got surprised when a kunai travelled fast and precisely towards Gatou's shoulder, earning a scream of pain from the midget businessman.

Zabuza as well as Asuma and Kakashi turned to see who threw it, only to see Naruto with his arm extended and with a complete deranged look on his face. Gatou, despite the heavy pain, got up haphazardly from the ground, snarling bloody murder at the blond genin for his actions. The mist nin, though, kept looking at Naruto for longer than the both jounin. Zabuza could see in Naruto's eyes a similarity to the kid that offered himself to be his tool a long time ago. And Zabuza remembered that this genin and the Uchiha fought against Haku. In his right mind, Zabuza started looking at Naruto more seriously as he could see the battle wounds on his body, as well as the wounds from Haku's. So this brat managed to beat Haku in battle.

"I don't know who the hell you are but kick him one more time and the next kunai will be lodged in your forehead."

"Who the hell do you think you are you punk…huh." Naruto took a step forward and even took out his sword in preparation for a second battle. The thugs from behind Gatou all prepared to fight as well.

"I said it before and I will say it again, kick him again and I will kill you. Haku may have been my enemy, but he has fought me to the very end, holding on to his beliefs." Naruto didn't care that everyone was looking at his back right now as he remembered the hunter ninja both when they fought and when they met before as Naruto helped him collect some herbs for Zabuza. "Even if the bastard Zabuza didn't deserve it, Haku fought for him. He gave his life for a purpose and that's to be respected!" Hinata, being close to him, could see his arms trembling…could see his teeth grinding in complete anger at the unfairness of what happened to Haku. Her chest clenched at the feeling of Naruto's despair. Naruto, for his part, knew about the Nidaime's teachings at this point to control his emotions while on a mission.

But, right now, he whispered a silent apology to his mentor for not following up with his teachings temporarily, as he remembered Haku's suffering and the injustice of what happened to him.

"In the end, he threw his life away, but he did so because he believed he was doing the right thing!" Zabuza, Asuma and Kakashi pretty much stopped as he eyed the kid rant.

Especially, Zabuza as he then looked at the body of Haku, wondering how the hunter ninja felt facing the blond kid in battle. The mist-nin always knew that despite Haku's skills, he would never be a killer. He was far too gentle for that. Despite the blond genin being skilled enough to hold his own against Haku, Zabuza knew that Haku didn't have in him to fight for the kill. Zabuza at this point abandoned any hopes of surviving past this day. He was bleeding profusely, and his opposition wouldn't allow him to leave. Still, he at least could do something that would provide him some sort of closure in his life.

"Kakashi, Asuma, I am no longer your enemy…" The two jounin observed as Zabuza ripped the binds off of his mouth, before his entire face was visible. "Though, would you please supply me with a kunai for one final deed."

The two jounin noticed that Zabuza was now observing Gatou and his goons and certainly focusing as much killing intent as he could muster with the low chakra he now had. Kakashi released a sigh and acknowledged the request, before throwing one kunai up in the air. Zabuza gave the scarecrow jounin a brief nod in appreciation, before he turned to Naruto who was now observing him intently. Zabuza could see that the kid's anger was directed at him as well for what he did to Haku.

"Gaki, I was glad that he got to face you until the end…I can see that you and he hold many resemblances. Now, farewell everyone. It's been fun."

Gatou, despite it all, felt pretty confident in his odds, until Zabuza ran towards him and his goons with reckless abandon. The entire scene was brutal. The goons all tried desperately to attack Zabuza, but right now Zabuza couldn't care less about evading them or even protecting his body. He slaughtered them all with but a kunai. One by one, the goons were falling on the ground, dead and the ninja from Konoha stood by and watched, transfixed at the scene. Sakura and Hinata were having trouble watching it, but one look at Naruto and it gave them both the courage needed to keep on watching the scene. It was after all a scene of vindication. A scene that all shinobi and kunoichi must bear witness to.

The last steps of a fighter.

Zabuza allowed Gatou to be the last man standing, before he sliced the midget's jugular. By this point, Zabuza's back was impaled by no less than seven swords and with the amount of blood he lost, he could feel no pain anymore. All he could feel was the pull of his spirit to wherever location he will go at this point. While watching his former employer gag on the ground before succumbing to death, Zabuza then looked back to Haku's corpse and wished that he would get to go to the same place.

===A week later===

Now that Gatou was gone, the Land of Waves was free to move on with their lives and the atmosphere was certainly much more serene at this point.

It took an entire week for everyone involved in the battle to recover their health and chakra capacity. Also, Sasuke needed this time to get adjusted to his body once more, after being put in a death-like state by Haku. The Uchiha was at first pissed that Naruto managed to defeat the hunter ninja, but when he recalled the fight with his now evolved two tomoe sharingan, Sasuke realized how much he improved in the short time that he first faced Naruto in a spar. It was ridiculous to believe that this person not only helped Sasuke awaken his sharingan, but also helped him evolve it to the second stage. It certainly made Sasuke even more eager to spar many more times with his genin compatriot.

However, the image of his brother's fully evolved sharingan staring at him as if Sasuke meant nothing, made his blood boil.

The rest of the genin managed to relax throughout the week and even Naruto allowed himself a full day of rest for the first time since he started training with the Nidaime. The image of a dying Haku was still fresh in his mind and it only inspired him more to improve…to train more. He certainly would have gone out to train, but he was forbidden to do so by Hinata. After the battle, she could see with her byakugan how strained his chakra coils were and urged him to get some rest, both in mind and in body. Not only that, but she stayed with him pretty much the entire week to prevent him from escaping. Naruto tried to call for help, but the mere look of Hinata's fierce byakugan daring them to contradict her convinced everyone to pick her side instantly.

Asuma and Kakashi saw it with enough humor and, needless to say, both sided with Hinata in this manner.

When the bridge was finished, it was time for them to part and as such, Tazuna, Inari, Tsunami and a group of villagers bid them goodbye and a safe trip back home. Naruto and Inari crossed eyes for a moment, before Naruto extended his fist for Inari with a broad smile on his face. Inari then met with Naruto's fist with the same smile, before Naruto caressed Inari's hair playfully. The villagers all saw how different Inari became and it filled Tsunami and Tazuna's heart with joy seeing that he managed to surpass his father's death. After all, Kaiza may be long gone, but his name will always be in their hearts and in their memories as they step on the very bridge that now has his name on it.

The idea was from Inari himself after he remembered the words from both Kaiza in his will to protect everyone with his own arms and Naruto's praising Kaiza for his acts of heroism.

===In Konoha===

Two months flew in a flash for Naruto after the Wave assignment.

After that, his team participated in many D-ranked missions, five C-ranked and one B-rank even, together with Kakashi's team.

In the meanwhile, he would train his ass off, rarely doing anything aside from missions, training and meeting with his teammates and even Sasuke on occasion asked-demanded for a spar. He would abuse his kage bunshin training and actually urge the clones to perform all the chakra control exercises he knew, including the elemental ones. Asuma had provided him with a new futon technique for him to practice called Fuuton Senpuuken (Wind Release: Whirlwind Fist Technique). It was a simple enough technique that consisted of Naruto focusing enough wind chakra through a closed fist and then releasing the pent-up energy seconds before landing the punch.

Also, he was focusing his training on perfecting the Nidaime's technique Suiton Suishouha (Water Release: Water Shockwave Technique).

Of course, he needed to practice without a nearby water source and it was quite hard, because Naruto had to attract a suitable quantity of water as well as keep the strength level high.

The technique by itself started as defensive, by gathering water in a defensive barrier around him, before the accumulated geyser turned into a maddening wave towards the target. It was quite chakra intensive, but he wasn't much worried about it. Aside from the ninjutsu department, Naruto focused on his fuuinjutsu skills and space-time ninjutsu theory, studying the Nidaime's scroll as well as some scrolls in the library that Genin could pick it up. The rest of the areas of focus – taijutsu, kenjutsu and genjutsu – Naruto chose to spar with Asuma and Sasuke for that. As far as genjutsu was involved, well, he was struggling. The chakra control exercises helped and he would use his kage bunshins for target practice in the art of illusion, but he was struggling still.

Pushing that aside for now, in between missions, Naruto would act as a genin leader for Sakura and Hinata. The two girls would approach him asking for guidance and Naruto provided for them.

Sakura and Hinata already mastered the two exercises of chakra control and Naruto would guide them to spar on top of the lake, while using water walking. He would also surprise both of them with the occasional kunai and shuriken to test their awareness. In the beginning, both struggled, but they had the drive to improve and in no time, both genin would battle each other like seasoned genin. Naruto even got to train Hinata on the side. He didn't know much about the Hyuuga techniques, but he settled for being a target practice for Hinata. She was being tutored by her father in those techniques and the strict man was ecstatic about her growth in such little time. So much so, that Naruto even decided to teach her about the third chakra control exercise, so long as she didn't tell anyone about learning it from him.

He didn't want to receive another ear-full from Asuma-sensei about teaching advanced stuff to them without his consent.

But as the Hyugas were quite knowledgeable on the use of chakra, it made sense that the clan heir learned as much of it as possible.

Today, Team Asuma did a couple of teamwork drills and light sparring, before Asuma released everyone for the day. The bearded jounin had already informed his team that he would be away for a couple of weeks for a personal mission at Fire Capital. So, he had advised his team to keep on training. Shikamaru had also informed that he would leave on a family training trip with the Yamanaka and the Akimichi clans, so only Naruto and Hinata would remain inside the village. Naruto saw as Hinata and Shikamaru said their goodbyes for the day, so he was left alone in the clearing with Asuma-sensei.

"Sensei..." Asuma turned to his student and leisurely lit up a smoke.

"Mm, yes Naruto."

If history served him right, Naruto would only ever approach him for one subject…new skills to learn. The brat was indeed relentless. As his jounin-sensei, Asuma was also responsible for tutoring his genin about the life as a shinobi. At first, he figured that he would have to be more present with Naruto, considering that he is an orphan, but the kid had never approached with anything. The Wave assignment was the one time he had ever seen the kid giving in to his emotions…to his inexperience in life. He and Kakashi had advised Naruto back then about what it meant to be a shinobi in service for the village and the hardened view that Zabuza had concerning the profession. After that, however, they had been in plenty of missions and Naruto behaved as professional as a seasoned chunin throughout it all.

"Asuma-sensei, do you know who I can talk to regarding genjutsu?" The bearded jounin honestly wondered why Naruto would be interested in the subject, considering his predilection and pestering for ninjutsu.

"Genjutsu…now, that's surprising." Naruto just blinked asking why and Asuma merely chuckled. "Well, I really need to stop being surprised by you, don't I? I happen to know a specialist in the field…Kurenai-sensei happens to be a specialist in the field. I know she will be thrilled for the prospect of passing on her knowledge about the subject. In fact, I believe she is at Training Ground 3 at this time teaching her own team. If you hurry, you could go there and ask for her assistance."

"Oh, thank you Asuma-sensei…well, see you in a couple weeks then…bye." Asuma responded to the wave and tucked his hands inside his pockets as he observed his genin's back.

In two weeks time, Asuma would have to make a decision concerning his team, but he had faith that they were ready for it.

===Training Ground #3===

Yuuhi Kurenai stood by with her arms crossed and a proud smile on her face as she observed her genin training. It was already close to sunset and she was proud to say that all three of them – Chouji, Ino and Shino, managed to finish the second stage of chakra control, water walking. At first, this team was supposed to be for reconnaissance assignments, at least it was the directive given by the Sandaime when he asked her to be a jounin sensei to this new crop of genin. Both Ino and Shino managed to fit the criteria easy enough with their clan abilities and Chouji was the team's bodyguard in case of trouble. At least, this was the theory that Iruka brought to the Hokage for approval. Kurenai was at first skeptical of what she could teach the chubby genin, but she learned that Chouji was a sweet kid and quite eager to please everyone.

As such, the missions progressed nicely and Chouji had even learned a great deal of what these types of missions entail.

One sad part, though, is that with clan heirs, Kurenai wouldn't be able to impart to any of them her knowledge in genjutsu. Ino proved to be quite adept in chakra control and learned quickly enough in how to at least dispel the illusions. Shino, she already knew, was almost impervious to the techniques, since they relied on their kikaichu bugs. Chouji had too much chakra to be able to control and thus was quite weak to the illusions. In this manner, Kurenai had instructed his teammates to help him in disrupting it. Still, the fact remained that none of them were ever going to be using genjutsu like she did.

"Okay team, that's enough for today." Kurenai instructed everyone, before turning to the right just as the blond genin arrived.

"Oh, hi there Naruto…" Chouji waved to Naruto, quite eager to meet his academy friend again. Naruto waved to him back and approached the chubby genin to salute him.

"Hi there Chouji, looking good there." The Akimichi smiled broadly.

The rest of the team, Ino and Shino, observed the sudden arrival. It was no surprise that Naruto would greet Chouji first, since they along with Shikamaru would play together at the academy. Naruto then saluted both Ino and Shino, albeit neither of them admitted ever hanging out much with Naruto at the academy, though Ino heard bits and pieces from Sakura that Naruto was helping her a lot. Kurenai smiled at the interaction and stood on the sideline, waiting for them to finish talking.

"So, what are you doing here, Naruto. I thought you would be training with Asuma-sensei."

"Oh, I actually came to ask Kurenai-sensei for some help." Naruto then turned to the surprised sensei and she approached them, still with her arms crossed. She remembered the conversation she had with Asuma and Kakashi about Naruto's prowess in many subjects and even was privy to some of his missions from Asuma when the jounin peers got together for drinks on occasion. She remembered Asuma and even Kakashi giving Naruto high praises regarding not only his skills but also his behavior on missions. Though, she now became curious as to what he could want her help with.

Naruto, then, remembered that her team was still training.

"Sorry if I'm interrupting your training, sensei…" Kurenai shook her head and smiled at him, noticing his surprising manners.

"It's okay Naruto-kun, we are about finished with today's training. Just wait until I address them, so you can tell me what you need my help for." Naruto nodded and took a seat close to the trees while Kurenai said her goodbyes to her team, before approaching him. "So, what is it that you need my help for?" The sun was about to set for good and the few lights in the area came to life. The moon was also about rising and it aided with area's brightness.

"Asuma-sensei said that you are an expert in the art of illusions, and I wanted your help, Kurenai-sensei." Her interest was piqued at the mention and she placed both hands by each side of her hips.

"Oh, you're interested in genjutsu…from what I heard about you from Asuma, though, you were gearing towards ninjutsu and kenjutsu."

Naruto stood up from the ground he was sitting and the jounin noticed that he was quite tall, almost reaching her shoulder.

"Asuma-sensei talked about me?" She nodded and found herself smiling in response to his eager smile at being praised.

"Yes, he did...he has very high praise for you, Naruto-kun. Even Kakashi commended you when he is not focused on his reading. Though, don't mention to them that I said that." Naruto laughed at that, remembering how much Kakashi enjoyed burying his head on his little orange book, though he wondered what could be so interesting about it. "So, what aspect of genjutsu do you want my help with…"

"Oh, yeah, uh…I can already perform a few C-ranked illusions techniques." Kurenai heard in surprise, never before hearing that Naruto was practicing genjutsu techniques. Certainly, Asuma never mentioned that, though she kept on hearing him. "However, I couldn't maintain the technique for long. At first, I wondered if I lacked enough chakra control for this, but I have been doing chakra control exercises every day and am still struggling."

"Ah…I see…if I may ask, why are you interested in being a genjutsu user, Naruto-kun." This was just too surprising to hear and Kurenai thought about pinching herself at the prospect of imparting her knowledge to the next generation. Kurenai firmly believed in the will of fire and adored the prospect of teaching, especially when it comes to genjutsu. She couldn't help but curse every day that she heard her peers talk hours and hours about other arts and simply forget about the more subtle shinobi arts such as genjutsu.

"I aim to become a well-rounded shinobi, Kurenai-sensei and I also have a side project that I know you could assist me with."

"I'm happy to help a fellow genjutsu user, what is it?"

Little by little, the Nidaime's student would lay out the type of shinobi he wanted to become. The Nidaime Hokage was proficient in pretty much all different branches of shinobi arts and Naruto aimed to be just like him in the future. Ninjutsu, Kenjutsu, Shurikenjutsu, Fuuinjutsu, Genjutsu, Space-Time Ninjutsu, everything. And for that to happen, he would need to work hard, true, but he would also need to receive guidance from the best in each of these fields. It just so happened that he enjoyed the prospect of learning from the best.

"I was aiming to use my kenjutsu in conjunction with the false surroundings technique." The woman couldn't help but widen her eyes at the so called 'side project'.

Yuuhi Kurenai based her knowledge about Naruto from Asuma's and Kakashi's reports and the boy's own file. From that alone, it was already established that this boy was already very well developed in terms of overall skills, the likes of which Kurenai only heard about from Kakashi or Itachi's growth. However, when she heard about him wishing to use a C-ranked illusion in the middle of a kenjutsu fight, Kurenai felt herself without words. Of course, she would be able to do it with a single hand seal and still have the other hand free to fight. However, the level of focus and mind-strength to do so was enough to spike her enthusiasm. Naruto, for his part, saw the sudden giddy look and Kurenai couldn't help but blush slightly, before clearing her throat to keep it together.

"That is indeed quite ingenious, though quite difficult to accomplish, Naruto-kun. Could you do the technique on me so that I can see what you're doing wrong."

The boy nodded and went through the necessary hand seals, before focusing on the ram seal.

Magen Kokoni Arazu no Jutsu (Demonic Illusion: False Surroundings Technique)

Reciting the Nidame's scroll, Naruto slowly but surely guided his chakra to invade Kurenai's own chakra, reaching towards her nervous system. Within seconds, the woman saw that nothing much had changed, except that the moon was slightly lower and a couple of trees less than it should be in this area. Though, she knew from memory that she was in a genjutsu, she couldn't help but applaud the demonstration. And true to Naruto's report, the moon image then flickered slightly, before she released the illusion.

"Okay, I see it now. Indeed, a good show, but It could be better."

"So, any tips?" Kurenai nodded, already working on the theory that Naruto needed to understand, so she entered into teacher mode.

"A few, yes. First, you need to consider that the minuscule details are the most important in a genjutsu. The key here is disorientation without the target realizing it. I didn't notice my chakra being invaded at first, which is a plus. But, the images you supplied me with tempered with my memory of the area, so I was able to see that the details were wrong. But that is something you acquire through experience. Chakra-wise, those who tend to focus on ninjutsu, focus more on the yang part, while genjutsu require more yin release, I do hope you're following me thus far." Naruto nodded, already knowing about the theory of chakra and how to control the balance between yin and yang release.

"I do, yes." The confident and short response made it believable to her.

"Wonderful, how far are you in chakra control? I do recall Asuma saying that you already finished water walking." Naruto nodded and grabbed a kunai, before making it hover above his hand using only chakra.

The display made Kurenai even more excited to see his future as Naruto focused on the exercise.

"My last record is twenty minutes, though having large chakra capacity makes it hard." When the kunai fell on the ground, Kurenai turned into a thinking pose.

"What I noticed from your illusion is that it crumbled approximately fifteen seconds after you casted, truly so maintaining an illusion for longer periods is hard and I must say doesn't much fit with what you seek. Keep on with the chakra control exercises and you will be good in time. And focus on the details is key like I said. Though, your target would have to possess prior knowledge of the field like I do to know he is in a genjutsu." Kurenai saw as Naruto turned introspective afterward and she allowed him time to do so, quite pleased to see the young man's work-ethic.

Naruto, for his part, stopped pondering and turned to her with an appreciated smile.

"Thank you, Kurenai-sensei, for your help. Though, I do wonder what I could do to help you as compensation for your help." Kurenai smiled at that, feeling at ease with him, despite being the first time they interacted.

"You don't need to do anything, Naruto-kun. Not only is my duty to help the next generation as a jounin sensei, but it's also a privilege to tutor you in genjutsu." Naruto, though, looked like he was adamant in at least doing something.

"At least, allow me to buy you dinner, it's already that time after all and you must be hungry…I know I am."

She giggled at the blushing in his face when his stomach betrayed him.

"I'd say it's fairly standard that usually it's the senior that buys the young one's dinner, though I wouldn't say no to some dango if you insist." Kurenai replied as she casually walked with Naruto back to the village.

"I do…and since you're not my jounin-sensei, that senior rule does not apply."

===Dango Place===

In little to no time, the night life in Konoha came to life as many would be seen roaming through the streets, restaurants and bars. And since Naruto didn't know a good place that sold Dango, so he followed the genjutsu specialist to a place. Along the way, the two chatted about shinobi life as well as other subjects, like Naruto's relationship with Asuma and some hardships he encountered throughout the missions. When they joined inside the restaurant and chose a table, Kurenai placed their orders.

"So tell me Naruto-kun, you're teammates with Hinata-chan, aren't you?" Naruto nodded with a smile as he ate the first dango stick with much gusto.

"Yeah I am, do you know her, Kurenai-sensei?" The jounin held a cup of tea as she remembered the timid, white-eyed little girl.

"One year before your graduation, I tutored her for some time. At the time, her father didn't particularly care much for her well-being, because of her poor skills, but sadly I wasn't able to help much." Kurenai would sometimes base Hiashi's behavior on the many traumas in his life, like his wife's passing after giving birth to Hanabi and even the incident with Kumo that led to the death of his brother, but in her mind, neither of those events were valid excuses for mistreating his daughter.

"Yeah, I know all about how he constantly puts her down…I don't know why, though. Hinata-chan is very strong and brave. We have been training constantly together." Kurenai beamed at the news that she was doing okay. She remembered how much Hinata cared for Naruto back at the academy and was thrilled to hear Naruto's words about her. "I don't know why her father treats her like this, Kurenai-sensei, even her sister is mean to her sometimes. I know that Hinata can mop the floor with Hanabi when they spar, but she always holds back and by doing so, her father treats her even worse."

The downed look on Naruto's face only made the jounin smile, it was quite sweet of him to care about her little sister's wellbeing.

"Hyuuga Hiashi is a strict man, indeed. I remembered hearing some very harsh words from him concerning Hinata-chan and it broke my heart to see the effect it had on her. Though, I'm quite surprised to hear she is getting better."

Naruto finished his set of dango and then drank his tea while nodding at the senior kunoichi.

"Oh yes, perhaps we can arrange some time for you to see her once more Kurenai-sensei, I think she will like seeing you once more. And you can see how strong she has become." Kurenai appreciated the invitation as she remembered the kind words Hinata had to say about the blond genin back in the day. She could see how much he cared about her and was willing to push her out of her shell, perhaps better than Kurenai ever could.

"Sure, it's been a long time since I last saw her…I'm glad you're helping her improve, Naruto-kun."

Dinner went on after that as Naruto offered a refill since he was getting one as well. After talking about Hinata, they chatted about hobbies and like every fresh genin out there, Naruto told her that he trained a lot, though he had a special predilection for eating ramen on occasion. Kurenai then told him about how much she enjoyed hanging out with her jounin peers for drinks and chatting. While Naruto had yet to understand the concept., he came to know about a couple of other names that she mentioned as her friends. It turned out that one of said friend had walked inside the dango place at that precise minute and saw Kurenai there talking to Naruto. Mitarashi Anko was considered her friends, though she was a few years younger than the brunette jounin.

"Oh hi there, Kurenai-chan…funny seeing you here." Kurenai heard Anko's voice and smiled with a wave at the woman.

"Hi there Anko-chan, Naruto-kun here was just treating me to some dango. Naruto, this is Mitarashi Anko." The woman named Anko saw the Kyuubi kid sitting next to her friend and saw him nod at her in greeting.

"So what happened? Got tired of your genin and decided to steal Asuma's?" Kurenai only smiled at that though while Naruto just observed the conversation.

"Nothing like that, Anko, Naruto-kun here asked for some tips in genjutsu and he invited me here as compensation, that's all. You're welcome to join us, if you'd like."

"Nah, I'm good thank you both. I was just grabbing some dango and then going back to work…Ibiki has some batch of people to interrogate and needs my help. I will just let you guys resume your little date."

Kurenai sighed at that and ignored her choice of humor, while turning back to Naruto who was looking at Anko's back with a smile. She certainly reminded him of how he used to be before meeting up with the Nidaime.

"Don't mind her, what she got you can't fix…" Naruto laughed at that and shrugged his shoulders.

"I believed I saw her once when I used to escape from the Anbu pursuit back in the academy. She is the one who uses snakes, isn't she?"

"Yeah, she is, but please refrain from saying that to her face. Though she uses snakes in her fighting, the mere association irks her to no end, just a tip." Naruto was curious about the comment, but not enough to ask about it.

"Okay, I will keep that in mind. Is there…" Naruto was about to continue the conversation when both Jounin and Genin turned to see an Anbu shunshin to their table.

"Kurenai Yuhi and Uzumaki Naruto, Hokage-sama requests your presence right away." The jounin stood rigid right away and nodded to the messenger before seeing the Anbu vanish. Before she could usher the genin to follow her, he was already paying the bill and standing beside her. She nodded at him as they used shunshin to reach the Hokage's office right away.

===Hokage's Office===

The old man Sandaime Hokage was smoking his pipe while reading a report from the Anbu and Medical Shinobi Team. Time was off the essence right now and he had very few shinobi he could spare to aid Kurenai in this mission that only she could perform. The Chunin Exams is on the rise and his forces were stretched thin with the many preparations and precautions necessary for Konoha to house such an event. Not to mention the sudden tension that is on the rise in the elemental nations. Despite the five villages having a path of neutrality, Sarutobi Hiruzen knew never to take things for granted. As such, he would send scouts to all possible locations, disguised as missions to bring him reports.

The Hokage was alerted for about less than a second, once he sensed Kurenai's and Naruto' presence manifest inside his office.

Hiruzen allowed himself a fond smile at seeing the blond genin next to the jounin. If there was one genin in this generation that showed the most promise was him. Ever since the Wave assignment, when Asuma told him that Naruto not only learned about the kage bunshin, but also was able to use low-level fuuinjutsu, the Hokage was quite surprised. The surprise only increased as Naruto also displayed skill in ninjutsu and kenjutsu in the following missions. He had no doubt in his mind of this kid's drive and he couldn't be prouder.

"You called for us, Hokage-sama…" Hiruzen nodded, being serious as he addressed the jonin in front of him.

"Kurenai, it's about Kurama Yakumo…" Naruto saw with concern as Kurenai's eyes widened to impossible proportions and her hands were trembling.

Author Note

Ok that's it for now. I thought about jumping right to the Chunin Exams, but I chose to make one final mission before that and I wanted to place Naruto and Kurenai in this assignment. After searching for a possible mission to use, I decided to make them join forces in handling the Kurama Clan's issue. And before anyone points it out, yes, in canon, this event happened when Tsunade was already the Godaime Hokage, but I had decided to do it before the Chunin exams.

Next update: Fate Shadow Spear