A Word Before I Begin: Hey. It's Dark. Or Ryu. Or whatever you call me.

A word before the story. Now, I have been gone for quite a while, and I know I have been slacking, but I just haven't felt a spark for writing in a while. Writing anything, really. I used to write my own stories, or even poetry, but I stopped. I been stumped on a chapter in Stop The Future for a while, and now that I lost my beta, it's been a slower process. Not to mention I finally got off my lazy butt and got me a job. Go me. However, this job is a late-night shift, and you can imagine how tired I am when I get home.

Fortunately, I now found a usage for my tablet, who once sat in my house, useless. Now, I found some software I can use to write while I'm at work. So, that can help with Stop The Future, and The Disciple.

Stop The Future: I just got to get over the hurdle that is the current chapter. Trying to write the fights down. Originally, I was going to make it all the way to the finals, but the chapter became too fucking much for me. So, I think the next chapter will just involve a few fights, and then the chapter after that will finish up the exams. I wanted to do a redo of the story but I don't think that's going to happen soon until I finish the shit I wanna finish with it.

The Disciple: Hurdle to jump over. I'm trying to make it as tasteful as possible, and not cheesy. Soon it will be updated. It won't be too long... Hopefully.

That's it for the update. For now, here's a new experiment fic I have been working on for a while.


A Nugget Of Advice, Chapter 1

"Sorry Naruto. I can't be much help to you this month. I need to concentrate solely on Sasuke."

"But Sensei-"

"No, Naruto. You shouldn't worry about anything other than mastering the basics. Work from there. Your chakra control still needs work, and your taijutsu, while unique, still has no substance. Until you improve in those areas, I think it's better that I focus all of my energy to Sasuke."

A scowl immediately came onto the face of 13-year-old Naruto Uzumaki. Rightfully so, in the blond boy's book.

He was getting nowhere with convincing his teacher, Kakashi Hatake, to help him get stronger over the Chūnin Exams. He knew his odds, and despise how silly he acted sometimes, he knew Neji's abilities were higher than his own. His taijutsu was impressive, he was agile and light-footed, and he fought smart – even if he was brutal at the same time. He hated to admit that such a bastard Neji had skills, skills that potentially could beat his, but it was true.

Naruto had people harp on his abilities for years. Being on Team Kakashi made the meager level of his abilities come to light even more, and he would be the first to admit that he wasn't as "godlike" as he thought he was in the Academy. He came off that high horse when he fought Zabuza and Haku. This recent fight with the snake man from the second part of the exams in the forest merely cemented that fact. He needed to improve greatly.

He couldn't get over the fact that he was completely beaten by Orochimaru, even under the terrible power of the Kyūbi; the power he once called upon to kick Haku's ass. It didn't even matter that he had the demon's strength. Without any sort of control over it, Orochimaru threw him away like a rag doll, messed with his chakra somehow with a technique, and marked Sasuke with a terrible seal on his neck. A thing that almost killed him. Orochimaru, for what it was worth, could have killed his entire team with just looking at them.

Naruto hated that feeling: the feeling of helplessness. He couldn't help but to blame himself for what happened back there. If he had stronger, if he applied himself more before in the Academy or in training, none of this would have happened.

After his encounter with Orochimaru in the Forest of Death, he realized there were plenty of shinobi out there who could easily beat him. He had a lot to learn but that didn't seem too daunting of a task to him. He wanted to learn, he wanted to be stronger, not only because of his dream to one day serve as Hokage for his nation, but to protect the people that he cared about.

Which is why he was getting increasingly annoyed by Kakashi's refusal to train him. Sure, he asked Kakashi at times when he could admit was "inappropriate." Begging Kakashi for training every morning before the exams hadn't been fair, and he wasn't thinking about his teammates before. They needed training too; who was he to ask for individual training with a man he only knew for a few months now?

Now, however, it couldn't be any more appropriate. He was matched up with an opponent that, if he wasn't careful in his upcoming fight with him, could kick his ass. An opponent who was willing to kill one of his peers, and would have, if nobody hadn't stepped in time to stop it. This match also was something that could either inflate his ego, or be a massive blow to his pride. Naruto could not lose. Not when he promised the shy girl from before to avenge her. He needed to teach that son of bitch Neji that he couldn't hurt his cousin, even if he and her sides of the family had some type of beef with each other. Hinata was a nice girl. A little weird, sure, but she didn't deserve that beating that Neji gave her in the preliminaries.

So he needed help, and he was reaching out to the only man he knew that could help him. So, he had to act civil.

Naruto, instead of screaming – because it would only make Kakashi ignore him further – took a deep breath and calmed down before he thought of a good rebuttal for Kakashi. "Sensei, I'll admit it. I need help. With a lot of stuff. Yeah, my chakra control is lacking and my taijutsu isn't the greatest thing in the world, but I'm asking for your help. I'm not asking for you to completely indulge your time into me. I get it, Sasuke needs help, especially against his opponent, but did you stop to think about me too?" Naruto put a hand on his chest, adding effect to his words. "I only have the Kage Bunshin. I don't have any other ninjutsu, other than the Academy techniques. That's it. I need help, dammit! I'm admitting my faults, so why can't you help me?!"

Unknown to Naruto, Kakashi understood his student's reasoning for asking him to train him for the month before the finals. He did. Naruto had been right to come out and say his faults to him, but the simple fact was to him that Naruto had said it too late. If Naruto admitted to his faults before, maybe he could have set some type of training with him. Maybe he could have made himself available to both Sasuke and Naruto but he couldn't. Not now. It wasn't entirely Naruto's fault, not by a long shot. However, Sasuke needed someone to help him out with the cursed seal Orochimaru placed on him. Other than Jiraiya, and the Hokage himself, Kakashi was the only available one to help combat against Orochimaru's juinjutsu. He was also the only one in this entire village that could help Sasuke develop his Sharingan along as well. No one else. He was the best teacher right now for Sasuke, and he knew it was unfair to Naruto.

It was unfair because Naruto knew nothing. Other than the Kage Bunshin, what else did he have? Unlike Sasuke, Naruto didn't have much access to ninjutsu because he had no inheritance at all. Nobody to leave him scrolls of ninjutsu he could work with. Kakashi was Naruto's really only help, but the gray-haired jōnin couldn't help him. Not now. He felt bad, he really did, but it had to be done. For the Gods' sake, Sasuke was fighting someone who would have no qualms on killing him and he needed to get Sasuke in shape. Sasuke would already be a task. Plus, he had to keep tabs on Sasuke's emotional health, and lately, it's been shot to shit with that cursed seal screwing with his mind. That promise of dark power was seductive, and every time Sasuke tapped into his chakra, Kakashi would have to worry about Orochimaru tempting him.

Naruto meant well, but he had been a problem. Naruto would take much longer to help, and a month wouldn't help him, not by a long shot. For now, all Naruto could do really, is to just work on his basics and hope for the best.

"Naruto, I'm sorry, I can't help you. I'm going to be blunt with you, Naruto. Your skills are subpar, and right now, you're at a point where you're grossly underpowered." Kakashi felt like an ass telling Naruto that, but to him, that was the truth.

Naruto's face immediately lit up with two things Kakashi predicted he would see: anger and disappointment. He was half-pissed at the older man, and half-disappointed with him. Under all of that, he saw a small spark of underlying contempt as well. It had been a brief second of seeing it, but Kakashi saw it. He wasn't blaming the boy at all. He would probably be the same if Minato-sensei had done the same to him when he was a genin. However, Kakashi wouldn't leave without telling him some advice. "But you don't need incredible skills to win in the exams."

"Wait, what?" Naruto's expression bloomed with confusion. "How can I win the Chūnin Exams without having ninjutsu?"

"What is the point of these exams, Naruto?" Kakashi immediately stopped Naruto from blurting out an answer. "Think about it for a second. Heck, you can take the rest of the month and think it over."

"What's the point of asking me that question if you want me to think about it all the way to next month? How can I win the exams thinking about a question?" Naruto's brow furrowed in annoyance, trying his best to find the truth. After a minute thinking about an answer to Kakashi's riddle, he threw his hands in frustration. "Argh! Forget it, I'm done asking you anything. You're not going to help, so I guess I'll figure it out on myself."

"You will. You're not as stupid as people say you are, Naruto. If you think it over a little instead of jumping to conclusions, you'll get it." Kakashi put an encouraging smile on his face, under the mask. "Now, I actually do have someone that can help you for the remainder of the month. Someone that can help you go over the basics."

Naruto still didn't see how learning how to do the basics better was going to help him beat Neji, an advanced genin with the ability to beat anyone in the tournament. Nonetheless, the blond nodded solemnly. Further arguing with the man would do more damage than it could help. "Alright then."

"No more arguing or asking me who you'll be getting?" The gray-haired ninja asked, unable to hid the confusion in his voice.

Naruto did an uncharacteristically deep sigh. Then, the boy shrugged and sent his teacher a flat look. "I don't really care anymore."

Kakashi sent Naruto a worried look. Obviously, the blond was hurt, but he wasn't showing it. 'He's suppressing his feelings. I know I pissed him off. Big time.' He knew he would have to make it up to Naruto, so he smiled again to the boy. "I promise to show you a few techniques that can help you later on in the future. That's why I need you to go over the basics, Naruto. They help build up a good foundation."

Naruto nodded again, though it was without any real vigor. "Yes, Sensei."

'That tone again.' Kakashi knew that he really had to make up to the boy. Perhaps if Naruto got better chakra control over the month, he would help go over nature transformation with him and his team. Naruto was a lover of ninjutsu techniques. He was sure he would enjoy learning his elemental affinity.

"Cheer up, kid." Kakashi ruffled his student's yellow hair with his gloved hand. "Trust me, this is for the best. Now, this person I have in mind to help you for the month has much more experience as teacher than I am. He's trained a whole slew of students before I accepted the position of jōnin-sensei."

"Really?" Naruto had to rise his eyebrow at that. "Who did you have in mind?"

"Come with me and find out." Kakashi waved at Naruto, gesturing the blond to follow him. Naruto did a small shrug and followed Kakashi into the hallway of the tower where him and the survivors of the preliminaries fought.

"Here he is." Kakashi gestured his hand forward to point at Naruto's temporary teacher for the month.

Naruto rose his eyebrow, his face staring at a man with the standard navy blue long-sleeve shirt that he seen several Konoha shinobi on the rank chūnin or jōnin have on. He had a blue bandanna-like hitai-ate on his head, black shades, and a polite smile on his face. "Hello, Naruto."

Naruto immediately recognized this man, and couldn't help but to scowl. "This, Kakashi-sensei? This is the person you got me?"

Ebisu and Naruto had history with each other. The first time he met the older man was when he met Konohamaru, spent an afternoon with him and taught him the basics of the Henge no Jutsu and the Oiroke no Jutsu as well. Ebisu had been one of the many adults back in the village who only looked at Naruto as if he was just the Kyūbi and nothing else. Not only that, but he only viewed Konohamaru as the grandson of the Sandaime, and nothing else. Only calling him "Honorable Grandson" and nothing else. He only saw them as those titles, and not as individuals. He was someone Naruto wouldn't even want to associate with.

Despite being lauded as some sort of "super-teacher" by Kakashi-sensei, it didn't change the fact that Ebisu was a narrow-minded man.

"Is there something wrong with Ebisu, Naruto?" Kakashi calmly asked, pulling out his signature Icha Icha book.

"You damn skippy! I met this guy before." Naruto pointed to Ebisu indignantly. "This guy is a total loser! He fell completely for my Hāremu no Jutsu!"

Kakashi narrowed his eyes in confusion at the other man, who was starting to look panicked. "What's the 'Hāremu no Jutsu'?"

Ebisu laughed it off, rubbing his shoulder nervously. "Just a silly technique. Ahahaha. Naruto-kun!" Ebisu turned to face the boy. "If you're quiet, I'll teach you a jutsu."

"Eh, whatever." Naruto muttered, still irritated. It was too late to bother arguing anyway. He was not going to get his way, so he had to accept his fate. Whatever the man would teach him, he would take, and that's it. After that, he wouldn't need his help. If it was really just the basics they were going to teach him, the fight against Neji would be ten times harder. "Let's just get this done."

"I'll catch up to you guys later." Kakashi waved his hand at the two ninjas. "Good luck Naruto, and think about my question!" He then disappeared in a cloud of smoke, the technique Naruto recognized as the Shunshin no Jutsu.

Naruto harrumphed, "Stupid Kakashi-sensei..." He then glared at his newer teacher. "So, are we going to learn something or what?"

An eyebrow was visible from Ebisu's face. "Is there something wrong with you and Kakashi-kun, Naruto-kun?"

The yellow haired boy shrugged. "Nothing much. Just Kakashi-sensei decided to ditch me for Sasuke."

"Ditch you…?"

"You know, focus on training Sasuke for month and not spare me a bit of his time to teach me too." Naruto explained.

"Maybe he is doing it for the right reason, Naruto-kun."

Naruto scoffed. "What the hell could be the reason?"

Ebisu put a finger on his chin. "Well... Sasuke-kun is the last Uchiha of Konohagakure, a wielder of the dōjutsu Sharingan, and needs someone to help him with it. Since your sensei is the only one in the village who also has the Sharingan, Kakashi is the only one suited for such a job. Therefore, he needs to tutor Sasuke for the month."

Naruto could understand that. He really did. However, his anger was getting the best of him again. "Yeah, but why couldn't he also help me too?! He's the laziest teacher I ever known! He hasn't really taught my team anything. No ninjutsu, no taijutsu or genjutsu! Nothing! All we learned from him are the foundations of 'good teamwork' and chakra control. I mean, that's good stuff and all, but knowing how to work together as a team isn't going to help me defeat Neji!"

The old man sent Naruto an understanding gaze. "You think your sensei is favoring Sasuke over you, hmm?" Naruto nodded. "But you could not be any further from the truth."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

Ebisu shook his head. "Kakashi does not favor Sasuke over you or your other teammate. He is simply looking after him."

"For what? Sasuke-teme can take care of himself." Naruto snorted, with a frown on his face.

"You are incorrect yet again. Sasuke needs help. More help than you. The juinjutsu he received from Orochimaru could possibly mess with his mind, Naruto-kun. Kakashi-kun needs to pay close attention to him." Not to mention the newer influx of power could possibly bring Sasuke over to Orochimaru's side, Ebisu said in his head with a bead of sweat appearing on his cheek. "Orochimaru is after him. That is why he placed the seal on Sasuke. He wants him."

"But why? Why Sasuke? He's just an ordinary ninja," was Naruto's rebuttal. The older man however shook his head.

"He is a symbol. The last of the Uchiha, the last of the Sharingan users, and the only one who is vulnerable. There are two other users of the Sharingan: someone who is not an Uchiha, and one is a missing-nin traitor and mass murderer. However, both are dangerous shinobi. Sasuke is a growing ninja. You may think he's safe inside the village, and he was for the past 12 years, but these exams showed how easily Orochimaru could infiltrate this village. Sasuke is no longer safe now that he's been bitten. He is also Orochimaru's key to the dōjutsu." Ebisu reasoned, readjusting his black specks on the bridge of his nose. It was a habit he had picked up a long time when perturbed. Orochimaru could not get Sasuke. That would be bad news.

Naruto took a few seconds to digest the information before nodding begrudgingly. It made sense and he admitted that it was a large part of him that was annoyed by Kakashi because the jōnin never even gave him or Sakura any sort of second glance. Instead, he was always paying attention to what Sasuke was doing. Even before the Chūnin Exams. He couldn't lie and say it wasn't out of some level of envy, but it was also, to him, very wrong for a teacher to favor any of his students. Not when the students were "grossly underpowered" as Kakashi put it. If anything, he should have been helping them out even more.

In the end, Naruto agreed with Ebisu's logic. He didn't like it, and it hardly made him feel better, but he understood what his jōnin-sensei was doing. He just wished Kakashi-sensei paid attention to them before. Maybe if he actually did train them right after the mission to Nami no Kuni, he wouldn't feel so weak and helpless. Maybe he wouldn't have Ebisu of all people training him for the month.

But… He couldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Kakashi did leave him Ebisu, despite being the very same man who fell for one of his weakest moves in his arsenal. The man was a tokubetsu jōnin, right? That had to count for something. He, at least, could respect the title.

"Hey, Ebisu-sensei," Naruto appropriately called the man, since the man would be tutoring him for the next month. "What do you plan to teach me for the month?"

"What do you think you need help with, Naruto-kun?" The man asked him. The tone seemed genuinely curious and wondering.

Naruto found this strange. Not many teachers would ask him that. He knew how Ebisu acted towards him as well – he treated him like he was crap. The fact that he was gentle with Naruto didn't quite make sense, but in the end, he didn't think about it too much.

Instinctively, Naruto almost shouted out, 'Badass ninjutsu!' but he knew he had to think realistically here. Naruto thought it over, and put a finger on his chin. He found an answer after thinking it over. "Um... I guess I need help with my chakra control. Kakashi-sensei always tells me that's one of the biggest things I need help with. I think I need some ninjutsu as well. Something offensive and can defeat Neji in the next round. Anything else that could help me."

Ebisu nodded, accepting the answer. "I planned to first work on helping you gain better chakra control before starting on anything else. Kakashi-kun stated you needed help with your control, and you basically confirmed it." Naruto nodded, looking somewhat crestfallen. "However, should you prove to get past chakra control, I suppose we can work on you learning one or two ninjutsu over the break."

Naruto grinned widely, getting excited. "Alright! Let's get to it!"

Ebisu nodded, "Follow me. We're going to go to a place where we can work on your chakra control. I assume you know the Tree Climbing Exercise?"

"Yeah! I mastered that way back."

"Very good. That makes this much easier. We will work on walking on water."

"Walking on water?" Naruto quirked his eyebrow as they started walking out the building of the central tower of the Forest of Death. "Is that the next chakra control exercise?"

"Yes, it is. I'll explain more. Right now, we are going back to the village."

Ebisu stared at Naruto for hours as they worked on the basics of the water walking exercise. Unlike before when he met the boy, where he was loud and boisterous, this Naruto he was looking over was focused and serious. He worked at his task for an hour, in silence, only asking if he was doing it right or wrong. Sometimes, he asked for advice but otherwise he worked at it alone, without Ebisu saying much.

Naruto has potential, Ebisu started to reason in his head. He taught Konohamaru, his current charge, how to use the Henge no Jutsu, a technique he was struggling to grasp in school. Despite showing him such an uncouth technique – something the blond boy dubbed as the Oiroke no Jutsu – the Uzumaki showed the younger Sarutobi how to use the Henge in order to use his perverse variation. Something good came out of it.

Reviewing that unpleasant memory, Ebisu seen something. Naruto was an innovator. Off of both the transformation and the shadow clone techniques, he created a technique that was effective against certain opponents – heck, it was effective against him. Despite it being only a distraction technique, the Haremū no Jutsu was still a sign that Naruto did have potential. He spent hours devising such a technique. He had the chakra to do so, and the imagination as well. If he focused, and put his mind to it, he could accomplish a lot. Something like that couldn't be ignored, even to someone like him.

Soon, Ebisu started thinking that training Naruto for the Chūnin Exams wouldn't be such a chore.

Naruto arduously worked at the Water Surface Walking Exercise for hours but did not move past standing on the surface shakily before falling in a minute later. "Argh! Why can't I do it? I'm doing what you're telling me. I'm trying to change my chakra flow constantly over the water, but it isn't working." Naruto growled, climbing out the stream of water they worked on in the village.

Ebisu noticed it as well. He didn't not understand why Naruto was falling in. He was doing the technique properly from what he seen. He frowned, and thought it over for a minute. "Naruto-kun, are you still suffering from your battle with Kiba Inuzuka?"

Naruto shook his head, "Kiba did nothing too bad to me. Not to my chakra anyway. Although," Naruto frowned, replaying a memory in his head. "I did have a run in with that snake bastard in the Forest of Death before."

'Snake bastard? Orochimaru, I presume. How amusing of a nickname.' Ebisu thought dryly in his head, before his eyes widened widely behind his glasses in realization. 'Wait. Is it possible that Orochimaru did something to him in the Forest of Death to cause his chakra control to have complications?' "Did Orochimaru do something to you, anything at all?"

"Yeah! He did some weird technique on me. He called it the 'Gogyō Fūin' and he used it to knock me out."

"Naruto, let me see your stomach. I need to see something." Ebisu said seriously, immediately recognizing the name of the technique.

Naruto looked at him queerly. "Why do you need to see my stomach? The hell? That's weird, man!"

"I need to see your seal on your stomach." Ebisu said in a hushed tone, rolling his eyes at the teen's suggestion. Naruto looked at him again like he said something very odd, but he obeyed. He took off his already wet t-shirt and allowed the man to see his torso. "Now, draw some chakra so your seal can reveal itself."

Naruto nodded, clapped his hands and drew some chakra forth. It was somewhat hard molding chakra to do it, but he accomplished it.

While Ebisu was not a master of fūinjutsu, he had at least known enough to recognize how the Yondaime's seal looked like. He also knew that the name and purpose of Orochimaru's technique. Naruto's seal, the Hakke no Fūin Shiki, was there but was surrounded with five weird kanji symbols. "Metal", "Wood", "Fire", "Water" and "Earth" the purple kanji read. As Naruto channel chakra, they glowed brightly, a sign the boy's chakra and the symbols were connected together.

"He must have tampered with your chakra control. With that seal, a normal person could barely channel their chakra. I am surprised you even have enough chakra to keep going. We have been practicing this exercise for hours!" How could something go unsaid? Did the boy not feel something weird with chakra? How could he have not known?

Still, was this entirely his fault? Didn't anyone check on him, like his teacher, or was the attention only given to Sasuke and his seal? This sealing technique was made to seal away chakra, and even seal away the Kyūbi's chakra away, he was betting, or else, why would this seal be placed directly on Naruto's navel?

Orochimaru truly was a scary individual. Ebisu shook his head in annoyance. "Naruto, we are going to stop training for a while."

Naruto looked nervous, his eyes panicking silently. "Am I... in some sort of trouble?"

"No. You are going to be fine." The man in blue sighed. "Just be relieved we figured out that something was wrong with your chakra in the first place. If left unchecked, this seal could have potentially killed you."

Naruto gulped. What the hell did that snake shithead do to him? "How are we going to get the seal off? Can you do it, Ebisu-sensei?"

Ebisu shook his head. "Unfortunately, my knowledge of sealing techniques is limited, Naruto-kun. However, we shall take this to the Sandaime Hokage. His knowledge of fūinjutsu can solve this problem."

"Alright." Naruto said, and grabbed for his damp black t-shirt, but did not put it back on. He opted to instead put on his drier jacket.

"It is good that you came to find me, Ebisu-kun." The old man smiled in his office suite, inspecting Naruto's seal with a shrewd eye. "Ah yes. A classical application of the Gogyō Fūin. A technique I used many times in the First Shinobi World War, and a technique I taught all three of my students. This is definitely the work of Orochimaru. Luckily, I can unseal your chakra and undo the damage."

"Really? Yes! Thanks, old man!" Naruto grinned, happy that he could can get back to his training soon.

The Sandaime nodded, and applied the lightest amount of chakra to his fingertips, his fingers glowing blue with chakra. Ebisu paid attention to it, looking at the similar kanji that lit up in his fingers. "This is the Gogyō Kaiin: the counterpart technique to the fūinjutsu placed on you before by my student. This will allow you to access your chakra once again easily. Hold still so I can apply it."

"Got you!" Naruto said with a boisterous grin, but unfortunately was not prepared for Sarutobi's strong strike to his stomach. He groaned loudly as the old man slammed his fingertips into his stomach, and almost fell back, if it wasn't for Ebisu. The older man caught him, holding Naruto firmly by the arms. "Holy crap, what was that?"

The Hokage almost looked sheepish, "I am sorry, Naruto-kun. It seems I underestimated my own strength. Still, it was necessary. Now you can continue training in peace." The old man sat down back in his chair. He sent a slight nod towards them, and said, "If there isn't anything else, I bid you farewell."

"Thank you, Hokage-sama." Ebisu said with a smile, and bowed to his leader. Naruto sent a small nod towards the Sandaime as his thanks.

Naruto pumped his arm happily, and was about to leave the room as Ebisu started to walk towards the door. Naruto then stopped, and looked back towards his grandfatherly figure. "Hey, Sarutobi-jiji. Do you know the point of the Chūnin Exams?"

Sarutobi raised his eyebrow, surprised at the question. "Why are you asking?"

"Because of Kakashi-sensei..." Naruto frowned at the mention of his teacher. "I asked him for training for the exams, but he told me that I didn't need to know a whole bunch of techniques to win. He told me to think it over the break and then answer him."

Ebisu sent Naruto a glance. 'So, that's why he's been quiet today. He's been trying to find the answer to Kakashi's question.'

The Hokage knew the answer, and he knew why Kakashi had asked Naruto the question. It would get Naruto to think carefully if he thought about it to himself. "Your teacher has given you the question for you to solve, Naruto-kun. I cannot, with good conscience, completely give you the answer to your question. However," Sarutobi's eyes twinkled with some mirth. "I can give you some words of advice. The exams are more than being a tournament of fighting. While you can win the whole tournament, that doesn't guarantee you a promotion to chūnin."

"How can that be though? If you can beat everybody in the tournament, how can you not be chūnin material?" Naruto's frown gotten deeper, trying to figure out the answer.

"Just because you have the fighting skills of a chūnin, doesn't mean you actually deserve becoming a chūnin," came from Ebisu, who stepped into the chat again. "Everybody has the potential to become a chūnin in the exams, but that doesn't mean they all can become one. The exams are much more than fighting. In order to become a chūnin, you must act like one, and think like one. Thus, you must know what it is to be chūnin. Sometimes, there's more than one way than surviving a fight."

Naruto frowned, wanting nothing more than to throw his hands up in frustration. "This isn't really advice... It's more like a riddle than advice. Like all that 'Underneath the underneath' crap that Kakashi-sensei spews."

The Hokage chuckled at Naruto's unabashed attitude. "It is because it is a good quote, my boy. 'Look underneath the underneath.' Sometimes, something that seems like it only has one purpose, serves many. You have plenty of time to figure it out. Sleep it over, come back to it after a few days." Sarutobi then took a puff from his pipe. "But I know you, Naruto. You will not sleep until you think you have it figured out. I have no doubt you will have figured out soon enough."

Naruto beamed at his grandfatherly figure and uncharacteristically bowed deeply. "Thank you, Hokage-sama."

Sarutobi was surprised, but smiled nevertheless, got up from his chair again and ruffled Naruto's blond hair. "You are welcome. You are also welcome to ask me about anything anytime boy."

"Heh. I will. Well, Ebisu-sensei," Naruto turned to the blue-wearing tokebetsu jōnin with his black shades. "Let's continue training!"

Ebisu smiled, "While I admire your exuberance, Naruto-kun, I have decided that we are going to take a break for the rest of today. It has been a long day and you just came from the tournament. We will begin again tomorrow when you are fresh and anew."

Naruto pouted, but he understood. "Okay, Ebisu-sensei!"

"If I may, I would like to have a word with you, Ebisu-kun." The Hokage said, now settled firmly in his seat again.

Ebisu nodded. "Yes, my lord. Naruto-kun, I will see you tomorrow."

"Sure thing!" And the blond left.

"So, how do you evaluate Naruto so far, Ebisu-kun?"

"In my humble opinion, I think Naruto-kun has to shape up fast, or else he will not be able to defeat Neji Hyūga in the Chūnin Exams, much less be considered a chūnin." Ebisu pronounced, trying to be as blunt as he could, without showing any ill intent of the boy's skills. "I suspect now that his chakra is not restricted, he will be able to easily do the Water Walking Exercise, but other than chakra control exercises, and the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, Naruto-kun doesn't have a lot to work with."

"Ah, but you are wrong in that sense, my boy. He does have a lot to work with, preferably with the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu. After all, despite Naruto-kun having the technique for months in his possession, he has yet to figure out that his clones can be used more than fighting tools."

Ebisu's eyes widened in realization. "Are you suggesting I should tell him about the secret of the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu? Is that not a little dangerous? Most ninja cannot even exploit it."

"And why not?" Sarutobi snorted, putting his pipe in his mouth again, before taking a small puff from it. Smoke billowed out of his mouth as he exhaled. "…It is a wonder how Naruto-kun has not figured out that he can receive memories and experience from his dispelled clones yet or why Kakashi has not told him the secret of Naruto's most used technique. With him knowing that, his training can be increased exponentially. It is also perfect since Naruto has extremely huge amounts of chakra for his age. The danger is extremely cut down. Do you know how much clones the boy can make on a whim? Several hundreds, and even then, these clones still have a decent amount of chakra to use. I believe by the time of the exams, he will be more than ready for his opponent."

Sarutobi smiled at Ebisu, putting his pipe on his table. "Originally, I was going to have someone else take over. However, due to him not seeking out Naruto liked I wanted, and getting... Sidetracked by his own activities, I think you can take over for him for the month. He can see to Naruto after the exams. With you as Naruto's teacher, he'll be more than ready. I am counting on you to shape him up quickly."

Ebisu nodded, also thinking to himself how many things he could teach the boy. He could review for a few days on chakra control, then move on with elemental training, something that could take years, could be condensed to a matter of weeks. Finally, he could help him out a little on taijutsu, though it would not be a big focus, because learning a fighting style or improving on taijutsu took months that Naruto did not have. Besides, Neji already had superior taijutsu thanks to years of training. Focusing on teaching Naruto anything like that was pointless.

And he knew how many clones the boy could make now. Heck, he even had first-hand experience… And he had experienced the perverse technique that followed too...

How uncomfortable of an experience, Ebisu thought to himself, flushing at the memories.

Reminder of his weakness for naked women aside, the boy had potential. He would draw it out, and it would be a no-brainer. As a former chūnin instructor for five years, a tokubetsu jōnin for five more, and having experience in training many youthful shinobi, he would draw such power out this young man too. However, what was so surprising was the complete confidence the Hokage had in Naruto. It was almost startling. It was like the Hokage knew Naruto would grow and become a great shinobi.

Ebisu would have to judge for himself.


A/N: So, there you go. A little piece of a story I wrote a while back. I got a few more chapters I'll update – slowly – on. Don't expect this story to be update too much since I got STF and TD to worry about. This story is more of an apology story for the lack of updates, broken promises, and seemingly abandonment of my stories. I know I hate it when I am starting to love a fic, and then the author decides half-way through to abandon it. It's not right.

Then again, I understand it now more than ever. It's hard to keep up with a fic, especially when you do something super ambitious, and STF has been my most ambitious fic yet. More than anything I have written as of yet, and it is kinda coming back in my face. I got to commit to it. Going to be hard since I got a lot of more things on my plate, but I shall try.

I also need a newer beta, and I got to reach out to one.

Bah, one thing at a time.

Anyway, thank you guys for reading, and I shall write up an another chappie soon.

Translation List:

Gogyō Fūin – Five Elements Seal
Gogyō Kaiin – Five Elements Unseal
Hakke no Fūin Shiki – Eight Trigrams Sealing Style
Haremū no Jutsu – Harem Technique
Henge no Jutsu – Transformation Technique
Juinjutsu – Cursed Seal Technique
Kage Bunshin no Jutsu – Shadow Clone Technique
Oiroke no Jutsu – Sexy Technique

Update (1/21/17) – Fixed up some grammar issues. Removed some things I didn't like, and cleaned up quite a bit. Thanks for reading (or rereading, depending who you are).