Chapter 1 – The Perfect Soldier

An ANBU knelt before the Hokage awaiting his orders. Outside, the Hokage's face was a perfect mask. One he had built from years of experience that betrayed no trace of emotion or thoughts. Inside, he mentally sighed as he stared at the perfect soldier kneeling before him.

"Thank you, Kitsune. Make sure to take at least a week of rest before returning for active duty."

After a moment of silence, the Hokage followed up with, "And no, that was not a recommendation. It was an order."

"If you insist Hokage-sama," Kitsune obediently replied.

The Hokage had to resist the urge to shake his head at the near mindless response. While he was an impeccable soldier, Kitsune was not what one would call a social person. For years, the old man had tried to coerce him into fraternizing with others his age, but he would be shot down. It saddened him to see someone, whom he'd practically raised from a young boy, become so alone.

It still astounded him how vicious the boy had turned out. Even amongst other ANBU, who were considered the deadliest in the village, it was uncommon to take A-rank after A-rank missions, only pausing to take an occasional S-rank. It truly was a shame Itachi had left so early. What they could have accomplished together would have been staggering.

It felt like only yesterday when Hiruzen had stumbled upon the boy breaking into the Sarutobi complex. The ANBU would never have even noticed him if the Hokage hadn't headed down to the storage room for a late night snack. As he creaked open the door, the boy simply froze and did nothing but stare back at the surprised, old man. The boy's face had been covered in dirt, and his clothes had been caked in dried mud.

He was just a clan-less orphan with nothing but the clothes on his body and thin scroll on his back. It was so silent that the old man could hear the boy's heart throbbing in his chest in fear. He had offered him a kind smile to put him at ease, before walking towards him.

The moment he moved, the boy dropped everything and turned to bolt from the scene. He barely made it three steps before he was stopped by the ANBU that followed the Sandaime at all times. The blonde haired boy struggled to free his arms, and his thrashing only grew worse as the old man drew closer. The Hokage had knelt before him and offered him a smile, before waving off the guards. The boy rubbed his wrist as he desperately tried to stare anywhere but into the old man's eyes. He was surprised when the man ruffled his hair, and offered him the burlap sack of food he had dropped in his haste to escape.

The boy could only stare dumbstruck with awe, when the Hokage offered him a place to sleep. Ever since that night, the boy had clung to him at the hip, as much as the ANBU would allow. He had immediately made a request to enlist as a shinobi, and the rest was history. All but adopted by the head of ANBU at the time, he spent every waking moment of his time studying, training, and pushing his body to the limit in order to serve the man, who had shown such kindness.

He was precise, vicious, and had a mind as sharp as his blade. Yes, ANBU had crafted their perfect little, monster, yet it saddened the old man to see such a level of commitment that prevented the boy from having his own life.

"That will be all Kitsune. You are dismissed," the Hokage sighed.

Kitsune nodded and headed for the door. As he reached for the handle, the door slammed open and in raced a blur of yellow and orange.


A smile crept across the old man's face as his other young charge sped towards him like a bolt of lightening. Equally as quick, Kitsune snatched up the young boy and held him by the collar of his shirt.

"No fair, Fox-baka! Let me go!" the young boy cried out as he squirmed for release from the older boy's grasp.

Their interactions never ceased to amuse the old man. No one else had the gall to insult Kitsune right to his face.

"Naruto, please be more respectful to Kitsune. You know he is just doing his job. Besides, you wouldn't want to irritate him on accident."

The lump of blond hair crossed his arms and pouted. "Like I care! He's not that great. If it wasn't for the fact that he's taller than me, I'd kick his ass!"

The masked boy made no response, but the old man could tell from his body language that he was smirking underneath his mask. Naruto seemed to be only one that could elicit that kind of response from him.

"I'm sure," the old man responded with a smirk. "Now Naruto, what are you doing here? If I'm not mistaken, classes have not been let out yet, and I'm sure Iruka would be disappointed to find out that you have been skipping again."

The 8-year-old boy blushed and at least looked a little ashamed before replying, "He's sick today and some other guy is teaching. He made me sit in the hall and wouldn't let me back in. I didn't do anything jiji...this time. I promise!"

A frown found its way across the Sandaime's face as, once again, another teacher at the academy acted out against the young boy. It had become a reoccurring theme over the past few months no matter how much he threatened the staff of the academy. He couldn't just send ANBU agents to watch the class to keep them in line. Misuse of resources for personal reasons aside, it would be difficult to explain to clan heads why there were suddenly ANBU agents stationed around the classroom filled with so many of their future heirs, when the teachers were supposed to be vetted for their protection already.

It was starting to affect the boy's grades, and he knew it would only get worse. He inwardly shook his head at the fools that acted against the boy. If he were any other student, they would have been overjoyed to have such a studious child.

One day, the young boy had wandered into his office out of boredom. The Hokage had been out in a meeting, but the blonde had found another way to entertain himself. When his meeting was finished, he surprised to walk in and find the boy entrenched in one of the fuinjutsu books he kept in his bookshelf.

To say that he and his guards were on edge would be an understatement. It went without saying that watching a jinchuriki meddle with fuinjutsu was beyond stressful. When asked why he chose that particular book, the boy had gazed up at him and simply replied it was because the swirl symbol on cover was the same as the one on all of his shirts.

With that simple explanation, he and the guards stationed around the room had let out a sigh of relief. Sarutobi knew Naruto was not the kind of person to enjoy sitting still or reading, so to see the boy so calm and focused, on a book of all things, was nothing short of astonishing. After a short debate in his head, he had gladly lent the boy the book, and a week later the boy returned asking for the next volume. This continued on and on, and now the boy was starting to exhaust the beginner fuinjutsu books that he kept in his office.

The Sandaime stopped his trip down memory lane and turned his attention back to the young boy in front of him.

"I'm sorry to hear that Naruto. Do you want Kitsune to go with you to talk with the teacher into letting you back in?"

The boy shook his head vigorously. "Nah, he's just a boring old coot anyway. I'd rather you teach me some awesome jutsu instead! Come on jiji, please?"

The old man chuckled as he replied, "I'm sorry Naruto, but I'm busy as it is," motioning to the mountain of paper that littered his desk and the ground around him. "Maybe in a week or two we can schedule a day for just the two of us, or, at the very least, free up some time for some ramen?"

The young boys eyes lit up in excitement, and his sound of approval echoed off the walls of the room.

"Kitsune, please escort Naruto back to the academy and, while you're there, ensure that the teacher is aware of my displeasure of the situation." Over Naruto's sounds of disappointment, Kitsune nodded understanding the message. "And before you go back, maybe just show a little something to Naruto to appease his curiosity."

Naruto perked up again. "Do you mean it?"

"Only if you promise to behave yourself until Iruka returns from his leave," replied the Sandaime with a serious expression.

"You got it jiji! And I never break a promise!"

He chuckled at the verbal tick as he waved Kitsune, who was still holding the boy by his collar, out of his office. He continued to hear the boy's muffled screams for release as they made their way down the hall.

He sighed and leaned back into his chair. Naruto was always a breath of fresh air and it was good for Kitsune to show at least some emotion. Naruto was someone who refused to be ignored and demanded attention. When Naruto had first met Kitsune, he refused to stop bugging the teenager about how his mask's whisker marks were similar to his own. After a nasty run in with some drunk villagers, Kitsune had intervened on Naruto's behalf and they had taken to each other immediately afterwards.

As similar as the two were, Hiruzen reflected upon how they would follow different paths. Kitsune was a perfect example of what Naruto would have turned into had Danzo gotten his hands on him. A perfect, lethal, empty shell of a person with nothing but loyalty to the village.

Naruto was too bright and cheerful for that. Hiruzen was content his decision to keep the boy from starting his career too early. He already had the guilt of one child soldier on his conscience, and he didn't want to add another. He made one final gaze at the fourth picture hanging on his wall of a mop of golden hair, before resigning himself back to the paper stacked in front of him.

Author's Note: ( Updated 9/23/16)

Just returned to fix up some grammatical mistakes and makes some changes here and there. PM my account if anyone else sees a major problem. Always helpful to have an extra pair of eyes.

This was the start of this story, and I'm amazed by how its taken off within a week. Thank you everyone for your support.