Chapter 2 – A Chance Discovery

Naruto was so happy he could almost skip as he made his way through Konoha. He would never actually skip, no never, for that wasn't very shinobi-like. No sir. But he was so excited he couldn't help but at least giggle. He had finally done it. He had made his way through jiji's library of beginner fuinjutsu books, and now, he held a new, blue book under his arm. He could finally start moving on to the advanced stuff!

His mood slightly soured, and he made a tiny pout.

Well, not really the advanced stuff. Jiji had said he still had to move on to the medium-level books, but hey, that was still an improvement! His determination back in his eyes, he vowed to be the best ninja in the village at fuinjutsu, just like the Yondaime was before him.

Though he would never admit it, Naruto was very self-conscious when it came to his own talent. Sure, he liked to talk big and would fight tooth and nail to back it up, but whenever he had to compare himself to the likes of Sasuke or even Kitsune, he would feel disappointed in his own ability.

Not for a lack of trying. He would spend hours trying to mimic what Nee-chan and Kitsune-san would teach him, but he still felt as though he was coming up short. The fact that he had advanced to his current level of fuinjutsu all by himself made him beam and swell with pride. He had become entranced the second he'd laid his eyes on that book in jiji's office.

He still didn't know what it was, but something about seals just clicked with him. It was exhilarating to finally find something he was good at, but when he learned in class that his hero, the Yondaime, was also a seal master, it was just even better.

Naruto couldn't help but snicker at the memory of the teacher's face when Kitsune had arrived with him back at the academy a few weeks ago. He had never seen anyone's face turn that pale before. He had forgotten what kind of effect Kitsune's presence tended to have on other people. He always forgot how big a deal he was due to the way he treated him. Kitsune would always take the time to listen to him, and he'd always rub his hair when he left.

At first it bugged him like it would with any other kid, but he eventually grew fond of the sign of affection and looked forward to it (although he would never admit it).

So there he was, not skipping, clutching his first, grade 2 fuinjutsu book under his arm. All the while ignoring the angry stares and whispers that would erupt as he passed by. It was the weekend and Iruka had decided to cut the class some slack by not giving them any homework. Now with all this free time, he made his way towards his second favorite spot in the village. It was too hot today to sit on the rocky head of the Hokage monument. Instead, he headed out towards the training grounds Kitsune had shown him once or twice.

As he entered training ground 7, he headed off towards the opposite edge of the clearing sheltered under the shade of the looming trees. He kept strolling until he finally found a place that satisfied him and popped a squat. Easing back against the roots, he excitedly tore open his new book.

His excitement quickly bettered out when he saw nothing but a blank page. He is eyebrows burrowed in confusion, and his heart started to sink as he skimmed through the rest of the book to find that all of the pages were blank.

What was going on? Jiji wouldn't just give him an empty book. He bet it was that new receptionist. She must have done something to switch the covers. But she had seemed so nice to him before…

He turned back to the beginning and found a letter taped to the inside cover.

Naruto peeled it off as he easily as he could without damaging the book and proceeded to rip open the letter. He skimmed through the message before groaning and slumping back against the tree.

Dear Naruto,

I want to congratulate you for finally completing the beginner class series. I am very proud of you and glad to see you're taking a more serious approach to your education. I apologize for not being able to give you your next volume in person. I am needed in a meeting with the Fire Daiymo in the capital for the next week. So Kitsune and I will be unable to congratulate you on your accomplishment in person.

Kitsune is also proud of you in his own way. I took his grunt when I mentioned your accomplishment as a sign of approval.

By now you are probably wondering why your current book is blank. Consider it a test. I don't claim to be an expert seal master, but I'd like to think that I know my way around the trade. I do know that all seal masters go through a series of tests upon completing each level, and since Konoha is rather lacking in that department I thought I'd give you a mock test, until a true expert can come to test your abilities.

Your challenge is simply to unlock your new book. All you have to do is remove the seal from the first page. Think of it as a culmination of everything you have learned so far.

Before you get any ideas in that empty head of yours, don't think about simply tearing the page with the test on it. All that will do is activate a security seal and spit out an enormous amount of ink, drenching both you and the book's pages.

I know you can crack this if you put your head to it. Good luck and I will see you soon.

Hiruzen Sarutobi

Naruto was filled with a strange combination of annoyance and anticipation. While he was ticked that the old man tricked him, he was also humbled that the old man thought enough of him that he could pass this test. However, a grim realization settled over him as he realized he hadn't brought his sealing kit with him.

"Kuso," he muttered as he slumped against the tree. He had only been planning to flip through the book and get a hold of the new concepts, before starting to take any notes. He hadn't thought to bring his equipment with him.

The seal jiji had placed was only slightly challenging. For his classmates, they would have mistaken the mass of ink blots and symbols as unreadable jargon, but to him it was as clear as day.

The big seal on the page was split into three parts. The outside of the sphere was a double detection seal that activated whenever the book was opened. This meant that every time he opened the cover, the seal would recognize it and activate the other seals below it.

The second part was a quadruple seal split up into four parts: one to detect any tear in the page, another acting as a storage seal, most likely filled with ink, yet another that would propel whatever was in the storage seal outwards, and a final part that prevented working on the lower level anti-theft seal until the others were taken care of.

The final level was the anti-theft seal, which hide all of the ink from the pages of the book. It also had a timed alarm that would activate the moment someone started working on breaking down the seals.

All in all, not too challenging for him, but not exactly a walk in the park. This would take time, concentration, and all of his equipment, which he had left at home.

Not resigned to lose his day in the training grounds, he tucked the book under his arm and neatly folded the letter into his pocket, before setting off into the woods.

Naruto loved to explore, although the ANBU would never let him when he was little. He understood why they wouldn't let him go. You can't just let a toddle wander off by himself, but his stubborn attitude never let him give up that desire to just see what's out there.

The first time he had come here, he had been so excited to discover the multitude of used kunai and shuriken that littered the training ground. When he ventured deeper into the forest, he would only discover more and more kunai lodged into the branches of trees and burn marks left over from fire techniques cast long ago.

Naruto had already scavenged most of the stuff left around. He didn't particularly like using partially damaged tools, but it wasn't exactly a choice. With the prices that the shop owners were charging him, it was better to resort to the supplies he would find in the training grounds.

Today, Naruto found himself traveling further and further into the woods than he usually went, hoping to find some kunai or shuriken that he may have missed before.

After about 45 minutes of walking with no results, he was ready to turn back and head home to unlock his new book. As he turned to leave, a glint of sunlight caught his eye. Up in a tree off to his right, he could make out the metallic gleam of a kunai's handle.

Naruto smiled to himself as he set his book down and began clambering up the thick trunk. He slowly inched himself up the bark, until he could finally stand on the wide branch and get a good look at it. The blade was buried hilt-deep inside the bark. Naruto took hold of the handle, which was bigger in comparison to the other kunai he had used, and pulled with all of his might.

After three of four tugs, he finally managed to yank out the blade only to discover something different.

"The hell is this?"

The blade wasn't shaped like normal kunai. It seemed to have three prongs that shot out from the handle. Speaking of which, he had never held a kunai with such a bulky handle.

"Aww man, the thing must be broken," he pouted to himself and got ready to chuck it away, when he caught sight of something on the handle.

Naruto was no expert, but he certainly recognized an advanced formula when he saw one. He ran his hand along the handle, rubbing over the complex formula he had never seen before. His eyes darted over the kanji, and he couldn't make heads-or-tails of it. With his limited knowledge, he could only pick up bits and pieces it.

This was more advanced than anything he had seen in his books. It was something unknown, and that sent an exhilarating chill down his spine.

Now this was what he considered a challenge. While jiji's seal was complicated for an average beginner, he would have it solved within 15 minutes, maybe 10 if he was really pushed. That would be a breeze considering the security seal was timed to collapse in after an hour.

This was something new, and it could possibly take him years to figure out. Never one to back down from a challenge, he tossed the kunai in the air, liking the way it felt compared to others, before making up his mind. A big grin found its way across his face as he slowly made his way back down the tree. He picked up his book and started to make his way back to the village, his eyes never leaving the mysterious formula on the weird kunai.