A/N: Took a while, and a couple not so great things have happened since I last touched this or any other story, but here we go.
This story has really been kept vastly the same with some chapters just being spliced together to shorten the number and because I hated how some of them ended where it would be so easy to simply keep going. Aside from that, the changes, honestly, turned out to be small things that just bothered me as I was re-reading the story.
KUSHINA'S FATE HAS BEEN CHANGED FOR THOSE WHO READ THE 'ORIGINAL' VERSION!
Naruto does not have three natures anymore. His main one of Wind will obviously remain, but he will make use of water-style techniques solely for his growing reputation. Sasuke uses fire AND lightning as a genin in canon so if what I do here for Naruto bothers you I really don't know what to tell you anymore.
Naruto's character can still be argued to be a bit sporadic; he's not entirely one way or another. But my whole reason for even writing this was because I DIDN'T like his actual character throughout the entire series of the guys own show! In fact, he was one of mt LEAST favorite characters. So the way I write him here is really just something people will have to accept; if you want the real Naruto then re-watch the show.
Isaribi has been kept, but will be delegated to a background character until I eventually(and I know it's been a long time but it WILL happen) do a time-skip and Naruto has his own team. She will make brief appearances, but it'll be similar to how many of Kishimoto's side-characters were handled.
Which brings me to my next point; Part 1 is nearing its end. There will be no new arcs. Tsunade is going to heal Sasuke and Kakashi, he and Naruto will battle on the roof, and then Sasuke is going to leave the village.
The team chosen WILL be different, that's all I'm saying on this.
I've gotten a better understanding of how the relationships with all the girls will turn out now too, which was something that had been bugging me a lot. So while the interactions weren't really changed it's because they lead to each kunoichi's ultimate fate in this story. And, honestly, the decision I came up with surprised me.
As I said, a lot of the changes were honestly small things because over-all I personally wasn't unhappy with the story just a little lost in the monster I'd created. A few characters who've been in the background will be coming into the light starting in the next new chapter too, so I guess aside from that, here we go...
Demon of the Hidden Leaf
Ch.1: Passing the torch
Naruto sat on his knees, staring at the grave sites in front of him. He and his team had just finished their first C-ranked mission; although certain variables inevitably upgraded it to an A-rank. And now both of those variables lay buried in the earth: Zabuza Momochi and his partner Haku.
It had started out like any other basic escort mission, Naruto and his squad traveling slowly through the Land of Fire to get to a port that would take them to Wave country...but then everything changed when they were ambushed by a pair of Kirigakure chunin known as the Demon Brothers. The battle was short, but it foreshadowed an even greater threat laying in wait for them.
That threat came in the form of the Kiri's former Seven Swordsmen member Zabuza; Demon of the Mist, and master of the silent killing technique. After a hard fought battle, where the trio of genin were forced to face the Demon alone and save their sensei, Squad 7 managed to pull out a win.
Or so they thought.
Naruto's Jounin instructor, Kakashi, informed the team that Zabuza had survived the encounter; the hunter-ninja that had taken him out was a fake.
Estimating it would take their adversary at least a week to recover, Kakashi used that time to introduce his genin to chakra control exercises. Naruto and his team-mate's practiced the tree-climbing technique for seven days before they were back in action and ready for round two. That's where things got dicey.
The reason being?
Over the course of that week Naruto had met and made a friend, someone who taught him a valuable lesson: When you fight to protect someone, that is when you become truly strong. The young boy's words struck a chord with the blonde and left Naruto with a lot to think about.
The following day they met up again, the boy was gathering more herbs like before, to aid in his friends recovery, and Naruto was more than happy to help. After that, the two spent time talking before the older raven-haired boy said he needed to return home. Naruto said his goodbyes and went back to his training, hopeful that he would get to see his friend again tomorrow.
That 'tomorrow' happened to be the day Zabuza struck again,and when the blonde finally arrived on the scene, the Naruto found himself wishing that he hadn't been so hopeful.
Because his friend, Haku, turned out to be Zabuza's accomplice.
The feeling of betrayal weighed heavily on the young Leaf-ninja's shoulders as he did battle with his former friend. Naruto attempted to get the former Mist-ninja to withdraw, make him see that they didn't have to fight, but Haku would always just reply with the same response.
"I want to protect the person important to me...I want to work for that person. I want to fight for that person. I want to make that person's dreams come true...That is my dream."
And so they fought. But even with Sasuke awakening his Sharingan, the two genin were no match for Haku and his Crystal-Ice Mirrors.
However Haku realized that drawing out the battle any longer could result in his defeat, so with an apology to his foes, he struck. A hail of senbon rained down upon Naruto and Sasuke. It was after not feeling any pain that Naruto opened his eyes, the ones he hadn't realized he'd closed, and was greeted with a horrific sight.
Sasuke Uchiha, his team-mate and friend, lay at his feet covered in needles. His body leaking blood from every wound. Sasuke had sacrificed himself to save the blonde.
Everything went red for Naruto after that.
The blonde only remembered feeling an intense rage, almost hatred, but the events that took place after still escape him. Kakashi would later inform him of how, after subduing both Haku and Zabuza, he'd chopped the blonde in the neck.
The next thing Naruto did recall was hearing Gato clap, and then the bloodbath brought on by an angry Zabuza; who fought with only a single kunai in his mouth to avenge the recently fallen Haku. Naruto would later learn that it had been Kakashi that had done the boy in with his Raikiri.
Soon after, once Zabuza had killed Gato and the people of Wave forced out the thugs threatening their village, Naruto and his team encircled the dying Mist-ninja and the lifeless body of Haku as it started, surprisingly, to snow.
Zabuza spoke of just how much Haku meant to him, the boy's loyalty and his friendship despite the swordsman's own cruel and blunt nature. Of how he wished he could follow Haku into heaven; if only so that he could tell the young ninja in person, just once, how important he really was to Zabuza.
But it was not to be, and the powerful swordsman passed from the land of the living burdened with that regret.
Yet through it all, Naruto Uzumaki felt more respect for Zabuza than he had ever felt for any other person in his life.
"I thought I might find you here," a calm voice echoed from behind Naruto. The orange-clad blonde turned his head to see the form of his sensei walking up to him.
Letting out a pained sigh Naruto replied, "Yeah, I just...wanted to say goodbye one more time before we head out tomorrow."
Kakashi looked on with his one eye as his student turned back to the two makeshift graves he'd constructed for the dead Kiri shinobi. Over each mound of dirt were wooden crosses made from stakes the blonde had carved from tree branches; Zabuza's blade, Kubikiribocho, thrust into the ground behind his marker.
The silver-haired Jounin noticed how Naruto's gaze would linger on Zabuza's sword, as if trying to will the man back to life to take hold of it again. This surprised the elite ninja, having never seen such a look on the young boy's face.
"I know it's hard Naruto, but he died a death that was more than honorable for someone of his status," Kakashi said as he placed a hand on his student's shoulder. But he was surprised when his gesture was shrugged off.
Naruto turned and looked into Kakashi's lone eye with one of his own as he said, "Oh yeah? And now what happens, huh? Is his name just gonna fade into the wind, because I doubt Mist will put it on their memorial stone. I bet they're just gonna sweep all this up and paint him as some sort of...defective weapon that they couldn't control and use him as some example of what not to be!"
"So you're saying you care about the reputation of an enemy ninja, a man that attempted to end your life in pursuit of his own goals?" Kakashi asked in curiosity. He'd never heard of something like this happening before. Usually a ninja was all too happy to drag an enemy's name through the mud if it meant their own fame would increase.
The Jounin instructor was pulled from his musings by the blonde genin's voice as he replied.
"Of course I care, Zabuza was more than just some enemy ninja. He was a person; with his own ambitions and dreams. He was also a powerful ninja who deserves respect and just thinking about what's probably going to happen to his reputation makes me so mad!"
Naruto's outburst caused Kakashi to lean back a little due to the volume, but that didn't take away from the message he got: his student held the Demon of the Mist in extremely high regard, and wished for people to remember the fallen ninja with honor.
This cemented a decision he'd been turning over in his head the past few nights while the bridge was being finished.
So, standing back to his full height, Kakashi turned as if to leave and said, "You know, something I learned about the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist is that, whenever a member falls, their blade is passed down to whoever managed to slay them. And while technically Zabuza died from his wounds, I'd say you were the one to defeat him. It was your words that changed his mind and made him put his life on the line to avenge Haku; you defeated the Demon of the Mist Naruto. Kubikiribocho belongs to you now...if you want it."
And with that, the older male walked away, leaving a wide-eyed blonde sitting with his mouth hanging open in disbelief.
Naruto closed his mouth, and then swiveled his head around to return his gaze to the giant blade buried in the earth. Did he dare take it?
While it was true he wanted the Demon of the Mist to be remembered with respect, Naruto wasn't sure he was truly good enough to carry on the name; he was after all the dead-last in the academy.
'What if...what if I just end up embarrassing myself? What if I don't have what it takes? Zabuza was a true elite ninja, a master of stealth with more kills under his belt than most of the ninja from my own village, and on top of that he was as powerful as Kakashi-sensei without using some special power! Kakashi-sensei even said that he'd need the Sharingan to battle Zabuza, can I really reach that kind of level?'
It was a glint of light that brought the blonde out of his swirling thoughts.
Blinking his shocking blue eyes rapidly Naruto turned his attention to where the gleam was coming from, and realized it was coming from the very sword he was debating about. Naruto noticed that it was now mid-day, he'd been out there all morning, and so the sun was in the center of the sky casting its light down upon all that lived beneath it. This caused Zabuza's sword to reflect the light, catching Naruto in the eye.
With his attention returned to the blade, Naruto soon found himself lost in the refection of himself that stared back at him. For what felt like hours he stared into his own blue eyes, searching for something that he couldn't identify, before breaking the trance to look upwards towards his headband.
After staring at the reflection of his headpiece, the young Uzumaki returned to looking at his own reflection. It was after another minute of silent staring that Naruto reached up, and turned his headband to the side.
Kakashi stood with two of his genin along the end of 'The Great Naruto Bridge'. All of Wave country seemed to be standing along the massive structure with the intent to see the team of ninja off.
Now they just needed their fourth member.
"Ugh, what's taking that idiot so long? We were supposed to have left hours ago Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura wailed to her superior. Beside her Sasuke just raised a questioning eyebrow.
Kakashi didn't even bother to look up from his book as he replied, "Don't worry Sakura I'm sure Naruto's on his way now; you know how he likes to spend time at the grave sites ."
"Yeah, I guess, but the mission's over and I wanna go home. Not that I don't appreciate Tazuna-san's hospitality, but I just really miss my own bed."
"Well you'll be seeing it soon," Sasuke cut in, "here comes the loser now."
And he was right. Through the crowd of people each member of Team 7 could see a mop of blonde hair making its way towards them. Soon Naruto exited the sea of people and greeted his fellow squad-mates.
Two of the three were surprised by what greeted them.
Naruto stood before them, looking mostly the same, but there were two distinct differences. One was the fact that his headband had been turned sideways, and the other, more obvious thing, was the fact that he had the sword that belonged to Zabuza strapped across his back.
Almost immediately Sakura was in his face growling.
"Naruto, you moron, what do you think you're doing with that sword; what kind of ninja robs someones grave!?" She ended her interrogation with a fist to the top of Naruto's skull.
Naruto massaged the small knot on his head as he answered his crush. "I didn't steal it Sakura-chan, ask Kakashi-sensei if you want, but I heard what you said about wanting to go home so maybe we can talk about this later?" He said in a subdued tone.
The pink-haired girl was a little taken back by the low, tired voice her usually loud team-mate spoke with. She eyed him with concern for a moment, before turning to her sensei, and then saying, "You're right, I do want to go home, so let's just go."
With that, the foursome made their exit from Wave country, leaving behind a cheering crowd and taking with them each their own set of memories.
The trip back to Konoha was uneventful; no ninja hiding in puddles waiting to attack. And while Sasuke was busy flashing his newly acquired Sharingan on and off, with Sakura complimenting the Uchiha on how powerful it made him look, Naruto remained silent.
As he sped through the trees the blonde's mind was continuously going over his decision to take up Zabuza's mantle. While he'd decided that it was what he wanted, he still had to think about how best to go about it. More specifically, what he'd need to work on to be a worthy successor.
Naruto knew that his taijutsu needed work, he only knew the basics of the academy style, and even then he'd skipped classes so there were definite holes in his stance. The blonde thought back to the rogue ninja's style, and how he incorporated not just punches, but kicks, elbows, and even his sword into his attack patterns.
Next he thought about his repertoire of ninjutsu.
At the moment Naruto counted that he had three combat jutsu and one ineffective technique that, if he was going to take this seriously, he would need to throw out. 'So that leaves me with the Henge, Kawarimi, and my Kage-Bunshin.' The blonde deduced.
'If I really wanna do this, I'm gonna need to seriously step up my game. Zabuza used some pretty high level techniques, and then there's his Hidden-Mist jutsu; problem is where am I gonna get somebody to teach me it?'
Figuring he'd deal with that later the blonde then turned his thoughts towards his speed and strength.
One he lacked, the other needed work. Naruto hadn't even been able to keep up with Zabuza's movements during their first encounter, the man moved so fast it was mind-boggling. Then there was his strength, made obvious by the way he easily handled his large executioner's blade with just one hand; where as Naruto was forced to use both just to pull it from the ground.
Naruto knew he probably had the highest physical strength among his graduating class, having spent many nights conditioning his body, but he knew it wasn't going to be enough if he was to become the new Demon of the Mist.
'That's another thing,' Naruto thought to himself, 'Am I still the Demon of the Mist if I'm a ninja of the Hidden Leaf? Was Zabuza's title based off his village, or his jutsu?'
Shaking his head the blonde decided that, even if the title was originally coined from the man's village, he would make it based off his use of the technique itself...once he found a way to learn it.
Naruto recalled only actually seeing Zabuza do it once, and unfortunately that wasn't enough..for...him...
Suddenly Naruto's eyes widened with inspiration as he remembered an impromptu lesson he'd received on the battlefield about the Uchiha Clan's special dojutsu.
Turning his blue-eyed gaze in the direction of his Jounin instructor, Naruto remembered that behind the man's slanted headband was one of those famous copy-wheel eyes; and he'd seen Zabuza use the technique he wanted to learn!
With plans to speak with his sensei after reporting in to old man Sarutobi, Naruto settled down and relaxed the rest of the trip home.
"So your C-rank turned into an A-rank, and yet you continued on, knowingly putting your genin in danger?" Hiruzen Sarutobi, the Sandaime, asked the Jounin in front of him.
Kakashi nervously scratched behind his head as he replied. "Well, I asked them if they wanted to return home, but each of them was hellbent on aiding the people of Wave. They said something about 'not being able to turn away from a country in need', it was really quite noble Lord Hokage."
Hiruzen steepled his fingers and eyed each of the three genin that stood in his office. When his eyes landed on Naruto he spoke up again. "And is the reason you've brought the famed 'Head Cleaver' home, so that you could collect the bounty on Zabuza's head?"
The old man hid his surprise when the blonde shot him a disgusted look; as if such a thing were a form of blasphemy.
Naruto opened his mouth to speak, but Kakashi beat him to it.
"Actually, Lord Hokage, Naruto thought it'd be interesting to learn how to use the sword. He saw the way Zabuza almost defeated me with it, and figured if he could get as good he'd be that much more likely to take that hat from you."
The elderly Kage eyed his Jounin suspiciously but didn't say any more on the subject. Instead, he let out a sigh and said, "Very well then, mission accomplished Squad 7, you may pick up your paychecks tomorrow after we've recalculated the amounts to hand out. For now, you are dismissed."
After bidding goodbye to their leader the members of Squad 7 left the Hokage's office and began exiting the building. Once outside, Sasuke ignored Sakura's request to walk her home and began the trek to his clan compound alone.
Naruto, seeing the young girl's sad eyes, attempted to cheer her up.
"Hey Sakura-chan, if you want, I'll walk you home after I'm done talking to Kakashi-sensei."
The sadness in Sakura's green eyes quickly turned to annoyance as she turned to look at her other team-mate.
"Naruto-baka how many times do I have to tell you, I don't wanna go out with you, and I don't wanna spend time with you outside of team stuff. You're annoying."
With that the young kunoichi huffed and walked off, leaving Naruto to slump a little in defeat.
Sighing in resignation the blonde turned his attention to his sensei, who had stopped and waited after hearing that his student wanted to talk to him. Naruto then asked, "Kakashi-sensei your eye can copy pretty much any jutsu right?"
Peering over the top of his book, the silver-haired Jounin regarded his student with a curious brow. "Just about, yeah, unless it's a technique tailored specifically for that ninja; like Haku's mirrors. Why?"
"Because I was hoping you were able to copy Zabuza's Hidden-Mist jutsuand that you could tell me how to do it."
The older man was a little shocked at his student's request. What he'd said back in the Hokage's office was actually pretty close to what he thought was the truth; leaving out the admiration Naruto had for Zabuza for obvious reasons. So the fact that he asked to learn one of another village's signature jutsu threw him off.
Eyeing the blonde cautiously he asked, "I did actually, why, what do you want with it?"
"Your genin student asks you for help and your first instinct is to question him?" Naruto asked with an attitude.
"It is when I don't see any reason to teach him what he wants to know."
Naruto turned his eyes away for a few moments, mulling over whether or not to reveal his true intentions before finally looking to Kakashi again.
"...I want to become the next Demon of the Mist but, to do that, I need to know the technique that helped make Zabuza so famous."
Now Kakashi's eye was wide, his eyebrow disappearing into his slanted headband. His masked mouth hung open in shock before he replied.
"N-Naruto do you understand what you just said? Do you understand what it means to take on that mantle because I don't think you do."
The blonde in question just lowered his head, blue eyes hidden by shadows as he answered.
"Actually, I do. That mission opened my eyes Kakashi-sensei, it helped me realize that being a ninja is more than just flashy moves and a fancy nicknames. I learned that being a ninja is about stealth, and being able to think ahead, to be able to shed the blood of another human being because when it comes down to it it's either you or them. I understand that, to truly honor Zabuza, I have to become a real shinobi."
Naruto's speech hit the Copy-ninja hard. He'd never met a genin that spoke with such passion or understanding of what it meant to take up the title of 'ninja'. It was more than just putting on a headband; it was forging yourself into something beyond human.
However, Kakashi needed to know one more thing before making his decision.
"Naruto, do you think you're ready to become the next Demon of the Mist?"
"...No." Naruto answered. "I'm not ready, but that's why I'm going to train, for real this time. On the way back to the village I went over the basics of what I need to improve on, and now it's time that I get to work. I'm not ready now, but I will be."
That was all Kakashi needed to hear. "Okay Naruto, come with me and I'll teach you how to use the Hidden-Mist jutsu."
The morning after his return from Wave found Naruto snoozing in his bed. The day before, he'd gotten Kakashi to teach him how to do the Hidden-Mist jutsu; though the surprise came when the young knucklehead learned that the technique wasn't solely dictated by a body of water, and that a caster could breath the mist out from their mouth. From there it was simply a matter of figuring out how to transform his chakra into the right nature.
This lead to Naruto wondering about what the Jounin meant by 'nature', and ultimately to Kakashi handing his student a very...plain-looking scrap of paper.
"It's meant to react whenever someone feeds a bit of their chakra into it, then, depending on what sort of element you align with, the scrap will change. Go ahead and try it first, and then I'll explain what your result means."
The last Uuzmaki quickly discovered that he was actually a wind-type, which disappointed him at first, but those feelings were mollified by Kakashi explaining that such a thing didn't mean he couldn't use other techniques; just that it would take more effort to do so. Case and point being the fact Naruto had already managed to perform Zabuza's famous technique.
And while the blonde was put out that he'd probably never learn the Fire-Ball jutsu that Sasuke loved to show off, he was glad to know that his massive reserves would help turn the Hidden-Mist jutsu into an impenetrable shroud that not even the Uchiha's legendary eyes could see through.
It was a small comfort, but it was the first step on the long road to his goal.
Afterwards, Naruto had gone to Ichiraku's to regale the father/daughter duo of his time in Wave. It was on the walk home that he noticed the looks he was getting. Now Naruto had grown used to being looked at, mostly in disgust or anger, but this time the citizens looked at him with confusion...and a little bit of fear.
Or rather, they looked at his sword with fear.
Naruto knew the civilians didn't understand the true nature of the blade, so he guessed they were just afraid that he had it; this made Naruto scoff. After returning home he completed his workout and then went to bed. He had a busy day tomorrow.
The following morning, letting out a yawn, the young genin rose from his bed ready to begin the day. After finishing his morning routine the blonde went to get dressed.; and then he stopped.
As he looked at himself in the mirror Naruto realized something; his wardrobe needed an upgrade. The blonde thought about how he'd seen not only Zabuza dress, but Haku and Kakashi-sensei as well. All three of them wore dark or neutral colors that helped keep them hidden in their environment.
Staring at his reflection in the mirror, at his orange pants and his orange jacket yet to be zipped up revealing the black shirt underneath, Naruto cringed.
"I can't strike fear into my opponents looking like this; but where am I gonna get new clothes? Everywhere I go the people wont sell to me..unless they don't know it's me they're selling to."
Setting up his hands in the proper sign, and then a puff of smoke later, Naruto was replaced with a young brunette boy, with green eyes, dressed in basic civilian clothes.
It didn't take long for Naruto to find a store that sold shinobi items; being a ninja village meant that many of the stores catered to that group of clientele. With a ringing of the bell atop the door, the disguised Uzumaki made his way inside a store that looked promising.
When the young woman behind the counter didn't say anything Naruto had to hold back a grin at how successful his plan was turning out; why hadn't he thought of this before?
Scanning the shop looking for his section the former blonde noticed that there were two women by the dressing rooms talking.
The first one he recognized from the Academy; she'd been a guest speaker in their genjutsu class. Kurenai Yuhi, if memory served right. She was beautiful, something Naruto could see even with his crush on Sakura.
She had shoulder-length, raven-black hair and piercing red eyes that were shadowed with liner. The older kunoichi was outfitted in a thigh-length dress that was a mixture between a kimono and medical tape. One of the sleeves had been torn away, and this showed that her entire arm, from bicep to fingertip, was wrapped in bandages. Naruto could see mesh armor underneath from the neckline of her dress. Kurenai wore standard shinobi sandals and her headband was used to keep her hair out of her face.
Turning his gaze over Naruto was met with the sight of another beautiful young woman; this one Naruto hadn't seen before. Her hair was purple, and tied back in a fanning ponytail. Her eyes were a light-brown, and were pupil-less, but that only added to their look in Naruto's mind. The kunoichi was dressed in a tan trench coat and a mesh shirt, her lower-body barely covered by her burnt-orange skirt. Naruto saw that she also wore shin-guards, along with the standard shinobi sandals.
Apparently, he'd been staring too long, because the purple-haired woman turned her eyes on him and said, "Hey kid, why don't you take a picture, it'll last longer."
This snapped Naruto out of his stupor, and shaking his head to clear his mind answered, "Sorry, I didn't mean to stare, I just...um—"
"Got caught up in checking out two hot women, there's no need to deny it, but next time remember the golden rule: glance and turn. Otherwise-" here Naruto lost sight of her, until he felt cold steel pressed gently against his cheek, "you may just get hurt."
Swallowing the lump in his throat the disguised Uzumaki nodded before saying, "Lesson learned, again, I'm sorry for staring."
Anko pulled away from him and patted him on the shoulder. "Good, sorry if I scared ya. I just feel it's my duty as a woman to curb any early signs of perversion, so that there are at least a few decent men in the world you know?"
"Anko enough, if you keep antagonizing the kid I won't treat you to dango and you'll have to buy it yourself." Kurenai cut in, taking pity on the young boy. This got the other kunoichi's attention quickly.
"No! Okay, I'll stop, just anything but that."
Smirking in satisfaction Kurenai said, "Good, then let's go, we've been here way too long and you haven't even bought anything."
As she followed her raven-haired friend out the door Anko muttered, "Of course I didn't, we were there for you remember?"
Once he was alone again Naruto shook his head in amusement before turning his attention back to the matter at hand: outfitting himself like a true shinobi.
While Naruto perused the racks of clothing back in the store, Anko and Kurenai walked down through the streets heading for Anko's favorite shop. It was a few minutes before the purple-haired kunoichi spoke up, her voice laced with curiosity.
"Was it just me, or was that kid back in the store wearing a henge?"
"No, I noticed it too." Kurenai replied.
"That's...weird. You have any idea who it could have been, or why they might have been doing it?"
Kurenai shook her head. "I'm really not sure about the 'why', but I have a good guess as to 'who'."
This interested Anko, "Really, who was it, and how do you know?"
By this time they'd made it to the dango shop, and both women sat down at the bar. While the T&I specialist motioned her order to the man behind the counter, Kurenai answered her question. "I'm pretty sure it was Naruto Uzumaki."
Anko's faced crinkled in confusion, "The brat your little Hyuga girl's got a crush on? How do you know?"
"He's one of only a handful of people with a chakra signature as noticeable as the one he's got; the others being Lord Hokage, Kakashi, and Guy. And I don't see any reason they'd be using a transformation jutsu to sneak go into a clothing store."
"But why does the kid need to sneak into a clothing store?" Anko asked around a mouthful of the dumplings that had just been handed to her.
"Because many of the villagers don't get too happy when he enters their shops; at least that's what Hinata's told me from watching him."
The rest of their time together, Anko's face would remain scrunched in thought.
Inside one of the changing stalls Naruto had undone his disguise and was checking himself in the mirror.
His torso was covered in a sleeveless, black hoodie zipped to the top. His lower-body was hidden away underneath a pair of black cargo pants; with his kunai and shuriken holsters strapped to his thigh and hip respectively. On his feet were the regulation sandals, and his wrists were taped. His headband was tied around his forehead, but remained turned to the side, and finally, Naruto had wrapped white medical tape around the lower-half of his face.
The blonde turned from one side to the other, taking in his new look, before grinning in satisfaction and changing before replacing his henge. After that was done, he gathered his clothes, and proceeded towards the register to check out.
Once finished buying his new clothes, and making sure he had extra, Naruto exited the store and returned home where he then proceeded to once again drop his transformation jutsu. As he was putting his new wardrobe away the blonde thought about what his first step should be to reaching his goal.
"I should probably work on my taijutsu first." He said quietly to himself.
And with that thought in mind, Naruto once again left his little apartment to make his way towards the library.
It used to be that Naruto wasn't particularly allowed in the library, the woman who ran it banned him for being a 'trouble maker', but now that he was an official ninja of the village Naruto was granted a special level of access to certain sections of the building. However, with Konoha being a ninja village, there were still some sections that only chunin or above level shinobi were allowed to pull from.
Naruto was fine with that for now. The amount of knowledge available to him now was vastly superior to the scraps he'd been fed in the academy, so the blonde decided to be make due with what he was given, and be happy with it. His obvious first stop was the taijutsu section, followed swiftly by a section dedicated to training exercises.
Taking a handful of both types, the blonde ambled over to a table and sat down, before opening up the first taijutsu scroll. The Kam-no-Ken, or Turtle fist, specializes in counter-attacks. This style used the opening's your opponent creates when they attack against them; primarily used by defensive fighters.
After reading the description Naruto knew immediately that this wasn't the style for him, he was anything but a defensive fighter, so he moved on the the next scroll in the stack. This one was called the Hachidori-ken; Hummingbird fist. That style was quick, and used jabs as its primary attack, but it required an intense amount of speed to be effective. Something Naruto didn't have.
This went on for over an hour, Naruto nearly losing his mind at the revelation that there were so many styles of fighting, until finally the blonde genin found the scroll he'd been looking for.
After opening the parchment, and reading the description, Naruto's face lit up into a thousand-watt smile; he'd found his new taijutsu style.
The O-no-Ken; King's fist.
This style not only incorporated using more than just standard punches and kicks, it was also based on strength. Naruto read further and found it got a huge boost if the user was fast, although speed wasn't the primary element. And although it didn't have a five-star defense, Naruto believed in striking first and taking out your enemy before they had a chance to counter.
With his new taijutsu style selected, Naruto moved on to finding training methods to become a more effective ninja.
The first one he looked at wasn't a technique, but a method. Weights. This was something that the blonde had heard of, but had never thought to try because he'd still had his head in the clouds. But now, with the realization that his current level wasn't going to cut it anymore, Naruto decided that weights may just be a good idea.
And if weights seemed like a good idea, then the chakra control exercises he found were fantastic!
Naruto remembered how many more clones he was able to produce after learning the tree-walking technique, so he bet the water-walk and waterfall run would be huge helps too. It had amazed the blonde to see Zabuza and Kakashi-sensei duking it out atop the water back in Wave, so much that he hoped the silver-haired Jounin would teach it to him, and now here it was, ready for him to master.
Another chakra control exercise he saw was the leaf concentration that he'd done in the academy. This one the blonde skipped over though, because he felt there was nothing to gain from it, and so then moved on to the next scroll.
This went on for another half hour before Naruto decided that it would be a good idea to get some training in. So, he returned most of the scrolls he'd taken, and left with the few that he'd need to look at for reference.
'I'll pick up scrolls on kenjutsu tomorrow,' Naruto reminded himself as he walked out the door. 'Sensei probably won't have us doing any real missions for a while, so I'll have time to work on my training. I can also pick up my weights too, because if this is anything like the tree-walking exercise, I'll be spending all day training.'
As he moved through the busy streets Naruto wondered if it was okay to leave Kubikiribocho alone in his apartment. Because while no one really bothered him, there had been a select few that took it upon themselves to trash his home when he was younger.
But then Naruto shook that thought from his mind; he was a ninja now, and no civilian was stupid enough to mess with a member of the village military; no matter how they felt about him.
It took him about another half hour to walk to the training ground Kakashi had taken them to for their bell test. Naruto had chosen this particular place to train because it had a large body of water for him to practice water-walking on, as well as trees to hone his tree-walking technique when he had time.
Once arriving the blonde was quick to get to work.
Stripping away his new shirt the blonde sat down on the grass and re-read the water-walking scroll. It explained that, to perform the technique, the user needed to emit a constant stream of chakra from the bottom of their feet and then use the repellent force to walk across the water's surface. Naruto also noticed that the scroll mentions that walking on water is more difficult than trees because the amount of chakra needing to be emitted changes constantly.
After reading through the instructions, Naruto walked over towards the large lake. Closing his eyes and setting his hands into the 'ram' symbol, the blonde proceeded to take a single step out and place his foot on the surface of the water. When he went to put pressure on it...he sank.
Feeling his foot get enveloped in cold water Naruto pulled his leg back and grimaced. "Well damn, I guess this needs more chakra than the tree-walking. Alright then let's go for round two."
An exhausted Naruto lay flat on his back under the late afternoon sky. He'd been practicing his new chakra control exercise for hours, and the sky was beginning to take on a fiery-orange hue.
An hour before, Naruto finally managed to keep himself above water for a grand total of three minutes. After his success the blonde took to using the next hour for physical workouts, so as to better condition his body.
'I'm beat,' the Nine-Tails jinchuurikithought to himself.'It must be this water-walking thing really is tough, because even walking up trees didn't wear me out this bad.'
Deciding it was a good time to head home Naruto pushed himself up onto his hands, grabbed his discarded hoodie, and stood up. Swaying a little from the constant fluctuation of his chakra the blonde put his top back on, and then turned his head when he heard a noise.
Naruto sighed when he noticed a badly done disguise being held up against one of the trees.
"Konohamaru I know it's you; your stealth sucks remember?"
The tarp fell and revealed a young boy dressed in a yellow t-shirt, gray shorts, a blue scarf, and a pair of green goggles. "I'd expect nothing less from my greatest rival, way to see through my cover Naruto-niisan."
"Not that I'm not happy to see you, but was there something you wanted Konohamaru, because I was just about to go eat and head home."
Konohamaru's onyx-black eyes widened before he asked, "Well can I come with you, please? I wanted to spar, but we can do this instead, and you can tell me about that mission you went on."
Naruto could see the hope in the younger boy's eyes. He really just wanted to spend time with the blonde; it didn't matter how. Deciding that it wouldn't be a problem Naruto told him, "Sure Konohamaru, let's go."
The youth jumped and cheered before following after his idol.
It was as they were navigating through the now-sparsely crowded streets that the young Sarutobi inquired about Naruto's new attire. "Hey boss, I like the new look, but what made you decide to give up your old jumpsuits?"
"Hmm? Well, it ties in with the mission I'm gonna tell you about, but let's just say that I realized how much more seriously I'll be taken if I'm not wearing such bright colors."
"But boss, that jumpsuit helped you stand out, it let everyone know that you were Naruto Uzumaki!"
Naruto chuckled lightly at his younger friend's point of view; was that how he was before his mission to Wave? Deciding to answer the boy's question Naruto said, "Exactly Konohamaru, it made me standout. Being a ninja I need to be able to blend in, be stealthy, and I can't do that if I'm wearing bright orange; like how you won't be very effective wearing yellow."
At that moment the blonde noticed they'd arrived at the ramen bar, so he and his shadow took their seats and ordered. Once that was done, Naruto turned to Konohamaru and began to re-tell his adventures in Wave country.
Throughout the story the young academy student flashed through multiple different emotions.
He thought about how cool it must have been to have gone beyond Konoha's walls, felt surprise to hear about how his idol had froze up against the Demon Brothers, and he also felt pride when Naruto told him of how he'd outsmarted a Jounin.
By the end of the tale their food had arrived, so both of them turned to enjoy it for a few bites before the younger boy said, "Wow Naruto, that sounds like it was dangerous. I can't believe you managed to get one over on a Jounin, you're amazing."
Naruto smiled, although with his new look you could only tell by his eyes unless looking closely, and said, "Thanks Konohamaru, but I didn't do it alone, although next time I'll be sure to be more helpful. That's what I was doing out at the training grounds, I need to get a lot stronger."
"Oh, hey, can we spar tomorrow? We can meet up where I found you earlier and you and I can duke it out. How's that sound?"
At first Naruto was going to agree just because he knew how much the younger boy missed him, but then he remembered that Konohamaru was an academy student...and tomorrow was Wednesday.
"Um, Konohamaru, don't you have class tomorrow?"
For a brief moment the youngest Sarutobi's face became a mask of sadness, but then it brightened as he replied, "Well yeah, I do, but I can skip it and we can hang out instead."
But the blonde Uzumaki was already shaking his head 'no'. When he saw the confused look on Konohamaru's face he elaborated. "Actually, I want you to go to class tomorrow, okay?"
"But Naruto-niisan, you used to skip class all the time, what's the big deal if I do it?"
"I skipped class because nobody cared if I went, it didn't matter whether I showed up or not because everybody was happier when I wasn't there. But you, you have people who want you to succeed Konohamaru, and if you skip school to hang out with me you'll be disappointing those people; me included.
I know the classes can be boring, but they are important, even if you don't think so right now. They lay the groundwork for you to become a talented shinobi, and I want you to have the best grip on it as possible. We'll spend time together on a day you don't have class okay?"
After listening to his idol's words, the younger boy could only nod in acceptance. "Alright boss, but only because you promised we could spar when I don't have to go to school."
With that the two ate the rest of their meal, telling jokes and stories, having a good time until it was time to go. Once he finished dropping off the brunette, Naruto made his way back to his apartment, and after making sure his sword was still under the floor boards, collapsed on his bed and fell asleep.