The Forest of Death looked like a warzone. The two boys watched as their third teammate had a duel with an S rank nukenin. They knew it was hopeless, even the most prodigious in the shinobi world rarely reach this level by the age of twelve. There was no shame in his defeat, it was inevitable. Even if they all had attacked nothing would have changed, and only a pact between summoners assured their safety while damning him.

They knew Naruto was different, he'd only been with them at the academy a short while as he'd opted to graduate three years early. But his push seemed to be more about how disliked he was by the instructors than any natural genius. However, three years of field experience is a gulf and while they were still fresh faced, even if more serious than the average rookie genin, they weren't battle hardened like him. It was shown in his display where he demonstrated a level of kenjutsu skill they didn't know he had and was utterly ruthless, attempting to to maximize every advantage but it wasn't enough. Even when he called upon that potent and frightening red chakra, his kenjutsu style becoming more feral as a result, it still did nothing. He couldn't touch her and she toyed with him until she'd gotten her satisfaction. But she was also, weirdly, complementary and encouraging.

Two strikes, one to the stomach and another to the face hard enough to instantly concuss him while also making him drop his sword ended the ominus chakra cloak. She picked up his sword and approached him, grabbing the redhead by his neck. She whispered something in his ear and promptly stabbed him with his sword, channeling raiton chakra once she impaled him causing the boy to scream. Their strongest member was done. They were surrounded by enemies and standing in front of Konoha's greatest traitor. Bleak was the only way to describe their situation.

"Nara-kun, Aburame-kun, come here please." It sounded like a request but it was clearly an order and both boys obeyed. She handed them a scroll to their confusion. "I know you'll report this to my former sensei when you make it to the tower but if anyone other than Naruto should receive this scroll I'd have to kill both your clans in their entirety. Do we have an understanding?" Both boys nodded while Shikamaru accepted the scroll. She departed soon after and the boys collected Naruto and his sword; Shino opting to carry him on his back after they patched up his wound. They made haste to the tower and luckily ran into only lite opposition, nothing the two couldn't handle. They arrived to the tower, greeted by their sensei, whom wasted no time getting Naruto to the medical center while having them debrief in front of the Hokage.

He made his way up to the familiar gate guards. A team of four was now only one but he'd changed. His eyes were harder and he was sporting a scar above and below his left eye. He was not happy to know raiton chakra delayed his healing ability but was assured the scar would be temporary, fading in months. He checked in as was protocol and made his way to the Hokage Tower to give his mission debrief. Given this was supposed to be a simple courier mission, lasting no more than a week and it lasted a month and a half it was of the utmost importance to know why so the Hokage spoke to him immediately. Naruto gave the mission details, only the facts and then presented the Hokage with four scrolls; three containing the bodies of his fallen comrades and the fourth the final words of the Chunin in charge.

The old man quickly read over the final words of Chunin Yagami, taking a deep pull from his pipe. "Naruto, do you know what is contained in this scroll?"

"No, Hokage-sama."

"Chunin Yagami stated you deserved a field promotion for what you did on the island of Ishval. He said you were directly responsible for defeating Kushimaru Kuriarare and Raiga Kurosuki. He said you even dealt with his initial bias professionally and have shown the qualities a shinobi needs to become a Chunin. How do you feel about that?"

"I am honored by his words."

"As you should be but unfortunately, I cannot promote you at this time." Of course he wasn't going to be promoted. People who'd graduated after him, done less than him and were less skilled were promoted but not him. "Any questions, Naruto?"


"I know you're disappointed but it just isn't time to promote you. I had plans for you, Naruto and you graduating early threw them off but I will not abandon them. I want you to get closer to what should have been your graduating class, it is for the best. Do you trust me?"


"Maybe I deserve that but if you become connected with this upcoming generation of clan heirs it'll go a long way in providing you political protection from those who'd want to see you hampered."

"Hampered like not being promoted when it is deserved?"

"Like not being treated as a shinobi at all. There are those who would seek to weaponize you and I don't want to see that."

"Then kill them. You're the Hokage, you employ an army of assassins. If someone is a risk to your rule why not remove them?"

"A lot of reasons, Naruto; the largest one being that's the path toward tyranny. It'd make Konoha be something it was never meant to be. But sometimes to uphold that ideal, I have to accept less than ideal outcomes for those that don't deserve it."

"As long as you can accept it, Hokage-sama."

"That's not what I meant, Naruto. Just understand, I'm not holding you back out of malice."

"If that's all, Hokage-sama."


When Naruto regained consciousness he relayed all relevant information to the Old Man, including that his chakra felt chaotic. Fortunately, the application of a seal over his existing one was discovered and remedied. This allowed Naruto's wound to heal faster and he was near 100% at the end of exam two and the start of the unexpected preliminary matches. All three of the sole Suna team passed. The fan user beat the weapons user from Team Gai. The puppet user bet some older Konoha genin that could dislodge his joints. The sand user defeated Kiba when the Inuzuka had enough sense to forfeit and likely saved himself from being killed. Sasuke Uchiha defeated another older genin, one that could absorb chakra through touch, it was a fast match. Sakura Haruno and Ino Yamanaka had a match, it was long and seemed to offer some moments of self-realization for both girls so that was cool. Neji Hyuuga defeated his cousin but it was harder than he'd suspected and the boy seemed irate he didn't get to do more damage to his cousin. Choji lost to the sound genin Naruto prevented from attacking Kabuto. His two teammates defeated the others, Shikamaru knocked the girl out while Shino crippled the other boy.

It was time for the last match, him versus Rock Lee. He'd heard about Rock Lee, unable to use nin and genjutsu but still passed (and given a team) at the behest of his jounin sensei. It was difficult for Naruto not to resent the boy, only by creating his clone technique did he manage to pass the ninjutsu portion of the graduation exam. No one was there to advocate on his behalf because he had too much chakra but someone who couldn't mold theirs properly got the personal approval of one of Konoha's premiere Jounin? It's one thing for life to be unfair, it's another for it to be a complete asshole about making it clear. Naruto normally didn't dwell on who got things he didn't. It was a waste a time and with no ability to change it, it felt self-defeating and pointless. He wouldn't ignore the unfairness but harping on it just wasn't useful. However, since his humiliatng defeat, he's been in a sour mood. He knew he couldn't win, she was better than him in every way and yet it still felt like his pride had been shattered. He didn't understand why, it didn't make sense. But it did piss him the hell off.

"Are fighters ready?" the sickly proctor asked, both boys give an affirmative response before settling into their fight stances. Lee in his gouken stance, Naruto with his right hand on the hilt of his sword. "Hajime" he said and both boys sped toward each other. Naruto got the better of the exchange, rotating around Lee's punch and hitting him, with his blunted sword thanks to seals, in the neck with enough force to send him into the wall. Had the sword not been dulled, Lee would be dead. Naruto stopped, fighting his instinct to press the advantage. This is a Konoha nin and he was hit pretty hard so Naruto would allow him to give up as he may be injured or knocked out. To his mild shock and sincere annoyance the green clad boy got up and resumed his stance. Naruto sped toward him again, this time hitting him in the left shoulder with an overhead strike and kicking Lee in the stomach, sending him back into the wall. It was weird, while not his fastest he could see that Lee could track him but couldn't move fast enough to counter.

"Take them off Lee" Gai shouted and the boy asked if his sensei was sure. The man gave him a thumbs up and Lee speed up to the balcony where the genin were observing. Naruto quickly put it together, the boy had been wearing weights and saw reason to change it. Before Lee could remove his weights, he was hit with another sword strike, hard enough to potentially break a few ribs and was sent careening to the floor.

"Sorry, Rock-kun, but if you willing disadvantaged yourself I can't allow that to change."

Gai's protege was on the ground, holding his ribs. The three attacks he's absorbed having taken a toll but he refuses to back down. "I-I won't let this end here. I will show-"

"I hate to interrupt you, Rock-kun but the only reason you aren't dead is because I haven't wanted to kill a fellow Konoha shinobi." Naruto said before biting his finger and running across the sealing array on his sword, removing the barrier from the edge. "You've taken advantage of that by not yielding and stepping on my mercy. Normally, I'd likely overlook it but you've caught me on a bad day. This is your only warning, if you get up again I'll come at you with the intent to kill."

"I won't give up, Naruto. I will show hard work can trump a genius like you." Lee said, managing to make it to his feet. Before he even took a stance, Lee was surrounded by cherry blossoms. Their fragrance was so alluring to the battered genin. It put him in a peaceful state, so peaceful he momentarily forgot he was in the middle of a fight. That is, until he heard a snap and the cherry blossoms seemingly attacked him, then Lee felt pain all over and fell to the ground in a bloody heap.

Most of the genin saw what Lee saw, him being surrounded by cherry blossoms. The Jounin knew it was a genjutsu but didn't dispel it so as to not interrupt it for Lee. While he was distracted, Naruto sent a series of wind blades toward Lee but it appeared as if the cherry blossoms suddenly grew sharp and attacked. Once Naruto dropped the illusion all saw Lee cut at various spots on his body. The cuts weren't deep but were numerous and appeared to be quite painful. Naruto waited for the proctor to call the match when, astoundingly, Lee tried to get to his feet once more. Even in mind numbing pain, the boy wouldn't give up. Many would find it admirable, more so foolish. Naruto found it offensive.

"Why?" the redhead questioned.

"B-because, I want to prove I can become a splendid shinobi with nothing but taijutsu." Lee said, finally standing again. Naruto didn't know why but this angered him. This wasn't his only chance at the Chunin exams and even if the boy couldn't use chakra techniques he could pick up a weapon. But more than that, he was being an asshole. Even if he won, what would it prove? That Naruto was an idiot for being merciful? Because until recently, almost no one gave a shit if Naruto became a splendid ninja. This toolbox had the nerve to call him a genius. What does he know about burnt out tenketsu from performing an original jutsu? The research, the notes and diagrams. When something doesn't work, going back to the start, going back to chakra theory or what hand signs do? Figuring out the elemental manipulation exercises by himself? Doing all of that and self-training his physical skills. The torn muscles in his legs trying to perfect the basics of his kenjutsu style. The cracked knuckles from improper punching technique. To be diminished as a genius, to be setup as this asshole's foil when all he'd known is hard work. It was infuriating.

"You know, they say a shinobi is judged not by how they lived but how they die. I'll make sure you'll be remembered as a splendid shinobi, Rock-kun." The Uzumaki said with menace and then blurred once again, intent on cutting down this arrogant boy that dare label him. However, his attack never reached Lee as Naruto was met with a powerful force and sent into a wall himself by Lee's sensei, Gai. Naruto's back hit the wall with a thud and he was seeing double, however he was coherent enough to make out Gai standing over his fallen student. This only enraged Naruto further as in the moment, he truly believed Gai wouldn't have attacked any other genin in attendance. But he openly attacked the sacrifice, likely not fearing any repercussions. But that's where he was wrong. Getting up, shakily to his feet, Naruto started to perform a sequence of hand signs; going a little slower do to the effects of his Gai's attack and his impact on the wall. However, the Hokage and Kakashi both knew what that jutsu was and with Gai distracted it could kill both his student and him. Hiruzen made to Naruto first, chopping him on the back of his neck, knocking the boy out. He had the candidates draw for their position in the finals, Kurenai drawing for Naruto. As they were dismissed she made her way to Gai.

"If you ever attack my student again, I will kill you, Gai."

"There's no need for that, Kurenai-san. I had to protect my student."

"Then you should have ordered him to concede the match but you encouraged him to continue on. What, Naruto was supposed to continually hold back for his and your ego? No, I don't care why you did it, never attack my students again." She said before she walked out. Gai knew she had a point and started to question if he'd given Lee some bad habits because he overidentified with the boy. Before he could leave the tower he was greeted by Kakashi. He knew his longtime rival was angry by the subtle cues in his body language, ones most would miss but the two had been friends long enough that it was obvious to the taijutsu master.

"Kakashi before you say anything-'

"Mah, mah, Gai. What needs to be said? You couldn't abandon your student to his fate. You had to intervene lest Lee be killed."

"Yes, but I went overboard. I'll apologize to Naruto-san promptly."

"You can but the damage has been done. He likely believes you wouldn't have done that to anyone else. You want to guess why?"

The green clad man looked stricken. "I hold him no ill will, Kakashi. You know that."

"Of course, I do. I know you. He doesn't. He just knows you attacked him in front of the Hokage and a team of foreign ninja with impunity."

Naruto woke with a start and quickly realized he was in the Hokage's office. He surmised that either the Old Man knocked him out or one of his many lapdogs did. A tantrum wouldn't do him any good but he, to his mind, had every right to try to kill that helmet haired bastard. It was an unprovoked attack in the middle of official Konoha proceedings. The aged Hokage saw his guest had finally returned to the waking world and called him over, there was much they needed to talk about.

"Naruto, how are you feeling?"

"Like I got blindsided by a Jounin."

"Yes, yes, that was unfortunate and Gai will be here to apologize soon. He'd be here now if I hadn't told him he needed to wait so we can talk."

"Talk about what?"

"Oh, how you were going to attempt to kill a senior Konoha shinobi after attempting to kill a fellow genin. Who you'll be fighting in the finals and who will be training you."

"I don't see how there is much to talk about. Lee should have conceded but he didn't, I had every right to kill him and avoid taking damage in some desperation play. Gai had no right and no need to attack me. As for everything else, I'm pulling out of the exams."

"Why?" Hiruzen said evenly but was surprised Naruto would quit.

"Because you aren't going to promote me anyway. Now, my team makes it and I don't hold them back from promotion."

"Naruto, that isn't true. You have as good a chance as anyone, though what you attempted to do to Gai will have to be noted."

"Of course it'll be noted. I don't care, I'm done. There's no point to this. You won't let your pet fox have any kind of authority over someone so why pretend? So I can entertain people I don't like? No, I'm done."

"Naruto, I've never treated you like you were the fox. You may be unhappy with me but I deserve more credit than that."

"How do I know why you do the things you do if you don't tell me? Three years you left me in the reserves while people not as good or dedicated as me got a Jounin sensei. Three separate misranked missions, three recommendations I be promoted to chunin and you ignore them and won't tell me why. You ignored the last words of one of your shinobi! And my graduating class? Most of them wondered why I was still a genin. People who graduate early aren't supposed to be stuck on the lowest rung, they questioned my abilities and what could I say? You were intentionally holding me back? What a whiny asshole I'd look like then. It's bad enough you let them all treat me like an infectious disease and tell me to deal with it. It was worse still when you've lied to my face but tell me to trust you. But now, you won't even give me what I've earned and you want me to be happy about it."

Hiruzen knows Naruto is right, the boy has no reason to trust him. He is keeping things from him, trying to hide his past misdeeds, done with the best of intentions to protect the village and Naruto. But it's a house of cards, one in which Naruto acknowledged as an adult, by turning 16 or a Chunin would topple. He's worked hard to fix what he's broken but he hasn't managed it yet and Danzo has only made the situation worse. Hiruzen knows he should have killed the man years ago, he was always too light on those he considered friends and it allowed the man too much power in the shadows of the village. A village can't have two leaders just like a person can't have two masters. Something has to give and it has to be soon. He wishes he could tell Naruto everything, make him understand his reasoning but he can't. Especially not now, not when his former student has seemingly taken an interest in Naruto if what Anko said is true. He is either in danger of harm or being lured away with honeyed words and false promises. He wouldn't acknowledge her potential tactics are a lot like his own, his heart couldn't take it.

"Naruto, don't drop out of the finals. You have a chance, promotions are selected by committee."

"A committee of people that probably hate me? Or won't go against you? No, I don't see the point."

"Not everyone is against you and this is your best chance to get promoted. Even the Daimyo has a say if he so wishes, if you're impressive enough."

"Fine." Naruto relented but in no way believed the lying old man.

"Good, now I've arranged for my student to train you so you'll be safe. I don't know what Orochimaru wants but it is paramount she not get it."

"Tsunade's going to train me?" he said, somewhat hopefully.

"No, Jiraiya."

"The smut peddler? Not interested."

"Naruto, he trained the Yondaime and is powerful in his own right. You can learn a lot."

"But I don't know him. If protection is an issue I'll go train in my summon's realm. I had some things I wanted to work on anyway."

"Naruto, you will train with Jiraiya, that's an order." Hiruzen said, sternly, causing Naruto's eyes to narrow.


"Good, now let's resolve the Gai issue and you can be dismissed for the day.

After his meeting with the Sandaime, Naruto headed to an isolated training ground, one he's used for years. He was curious what the missing nin would give him and why. He also wanted to be sure that should it be a trap it'll only affect him. He may dislike a great deal of Konoha residents but he doesn't want them dead, mindless slaughter isn't his deal. He activated the seal on the scroll and read the contents. He immediately recognized the handwriting, it was the same handwriting of the scrolls he would periodically receive with advance material he couldn't get from the shinobi library. Never any specific techniques, just theory or helpful hints. He always assumed the scrolls came from a Konoha shinobi that couldn't reveal themselves but if it came from Orochimaru, what does that mean? The scrolls, outside of the guidance of the panthers, were the greatest sources of help in his development as a ninjutsu inventor. He couldn't understand why she'd help him. This felt like the Old Man, a game was being played but he didn't understand the rules or how he fit in. He was just at the whimsy of others and he hated that feeling but didn't know how to break free of it.

He decided to just look at the material. True, he needed a plan but it wasn't going to come to him now so he'd focus on something he could do. The scroll listed a technique, the Impure World Reincarnation which was created by the Nidaime. It can bring souls back from the dead but requires a live sacrifice and genetic material from the one you wish to bring back. Enclosed in the bottom on the scroll was another sealing array, one for storage. He unsealed the contents to find two vials of blood. This was beyond creepy. The vials themselves contained a note and he could only dread what the lunatic snake summoner had written.

Those with power create boundaries to horde and safeguard their power. Those without power stay within the boundaries to stay in favor of the powerful. Freedom is pushing against and through all boundaries, allowing your ambition to be your only master. Chakra is poorly understood but the potential is limitless; however our understanding is hampered by what many would call profane or "forbidden". Most shinobi are content to live in ignorance, to have a child's understanding of the very force they depend on. But I saw something different in you, a desire to understand like I have; that is why I've helped you and you've yet to disappoint. I chose to ignore decency and ethics in my desire to understand this energy and our world. I walked in the darkness without a single regret. But I want to see how far you can go while in the light. This technique is powerful but it is not perfect. You may want nothing to do with it, you may find it offensive so I've given you an extra incentive to improve upon it in your own way. The Sandaime has withheld many things from you, not just your status as Jinchuuriki. If you want to know more about your past, about your clan then the blood contained in these two vials will do it. Just remember, keeping people ignorant is not a method of protection but control; don't let anyone control you. Break free of anything that holds you back, burn it down and kill it if you must. I look forward to seeing how far you get by month's end.

It could be a lie, he says it but doesn't believe it. He needs to know what these people know but he can't sacrifice people, not even to know more about his origins but she was confident he wouldn't have to. He needed to focus on this but with Jiraiya training him it is going to be difficult, the sensei of the Yondaime must be a real taskmaster.

No, no he wasn't. He was a lazyass that put forth minimal effort and was constantly distracted with any halfway attractive woman around. Naruto would be annoyed, especially since this man was clearly here to be his watcher more than his trainer but his negligence was beneficial so Naruto wouldn't complain. Though, he'd rather train with Kurenai-sensei since she actually gives a damn and has been helpful coming up with intensive chakra control exercises for him. She, however, was called away on a special detail which Naruto found a little convenient. So, he was stuck with this idiot as a trainer. What were they working on? Initially it was going to be summoning until Naruto informed him he already had a contract. But he was insistent Naruto sign the Toad contract too so the elder toads and Bagheera, the Boss of the Panthers and Naruto's personal summons, were hashing it out so nothing more to do there. Drawing on the bijuu chakra? He can already do that and how can a non-jinchuuriki that has never trained one help him? So, the last project was the rasengan, the Yondaime's personal jutsu. It would be useful as an attack jutsu and helping him in perfecting pure shape manipulation. It was also a decent chakra control exercise. He was still on the second step after two weeks, not because he couldn't go farther but he was slow playing Jiraiya. No sense in doing this faster than necessary. Naruto practiced it while he sent an overcharged shadow clone to the panthers to unravel the Impure World Reincarnation.

The key to Naruto's understand of the jutsu was to remove the mysticism from it and think of it as a chakra exercise. A soul was not being called back. Yin chakra was. The genetic material was a bridge, it contained both the Yin and the Yang chakra of the person being returned. The sacrificial body was for the additional yang chakra, the seals not only called back the the Yin but helped convert the sacrifices Yang into a compatible half of the returned person's Yin, making it reminiscent of their true chakra imprint. This also, somewhat explains, how they can repair the damage. The pure Yin chakra is constantly creating or recreating their form. So, Naruto reasoned, he needy a vessel of as pure Yang chakra he could get. This meant attempting pure yang release. There isn't much written on it, what he could find states that some have a natural affinity for it but are unaware and chalk it up to other things, like those gifted with yin release make excellent genjutsu practitioners. It can be trained but it starts with being able to separate the yin and the yang within one's chakra. Some accomplish this through visualization, seeing the yin and the yang emerge from various points and calling upon one source or the other and with no other known method Naruto opted to try it.

Success has been varied. He knew without Kurenai-sensei's previous help he'd have no hope of accomplishing this but now that his chakra control was better, his flow almost calm, he could focus it enough on separating the most basic elements from each other. Truthfully, if he didn't have this deadline, given to him by Orochimaru herself, he'd probably be doing better. He isn't very calm as he has too many questions and he believes figuring out an ethical Impure World Reincarnation will help get them answered. But even if it does, what does it all mean?

She made her way through the forest at a clipped pace, being late was not an option; it was never an option. Also, the sooner she got there the sooner she got this over. She doesn't know how to feel about her "Master" as gratitude often wars with low level terror. No time to think about it now, she reassures herself. All she has to do is give her report and continue on with her day. Even if the guilt becomes suffocating, she chose her path. She arrived at the designated meet and waited, there was no point in trying to find her, she'd reveal herself when she was ready. And she appeared, right behind her. She was impressed she managed not to jump in fright. Immediately she began kneeling, as is expected of her, causing the woman to laugh before speaking.

"So prompt, as usual."


"Well, what do you have to share with me?"

"He is being trained, poorly by Jiraiya and gives appears to be unhappy with the arrangement. Jiraiya seems more like his watcher than his sensei."

The woman nodded at those words, "What else?"

"Every morning before his workout he sends a shadow clone with approximately half his chakra somewhere with a panther summons."

"Their realm. He must have his shadow clone training in secret so not even Sarutobi can spy on him. Clever boy. Is there anything else?"

"Once he's done training with Jiraiya he practices his kenjutsu, does a light workout and then heads home. There he does research until several of his summons meet with him. I'm assuming they are performing surveillance of his competition. I scouted the other finalists, all but Shino-kun and Shikamaru-kun have subtle but unnatural shadows following them and none have appeared to notice."

"Kukuku, you've done well. I want you to cease your surveillance, it won't be necessary any longer."


"But what? I thought you'd be relieved to no longer have to spy on him. Don't tell me your nursing that silly little crush." she asked but her subordinate didn't answer. "You are? Tsk, tsk, tsk. You know that can never go anywhere, yes? Even if you were to turn his head that wouldn't end well for you, yes?"

"Hai." she said through gritted teeth.

"Don't be glum, you'll get what you truly want. Just forget about Naruto-kun."


"Good, you are dismissed, Hinata-chan."

"Jiraiya, how is he doing?"

"He's getting it faster than I did. Why isn't he a Chunin yet? He has the mission record for it."

"We've been over this, I won't always be here to protect him. He needs allies and ties to the village. He has startling little and I've long since alienated him."

"No one who has graduate early has ever been sent to the reserves, so I can't imagine why he took that as an insult."

"He wasn't supposed to be allowed to take the exam if there was a reasonable expectation he could pass. Iruka and Mizuki assured me he couldn't do the clone jutsu."

"With his chakra levels he'd never be able to with what they teach in the academy. Tell me, Sensei, why I should be happy with you setting my godson up to fail?"

"I would have taught him another clone jutsu at some point but him failing the exams outright would have made it possible to put him on Kakashi's team."

"You were going to make him the deadlast to satisfy Minato's brat? You manipulative bastard. Is this why you've had me stay away for so long? So, I couldn't see the strings you were pulling?"

"Enough, Jiraiya. You were needed out there. As of now, Naruto has very few connections to the village. He seems to like his teammates and his sensei but they've only been together for six months, that's hardly enough time to sway him should he decide to leave."

"He wouldn't leave, he's no traitor."

"I hope you're right, Jiraiya."

It was three days before the finals and Naruto had finally done it. It'd take some time to perfect it, even more time to develop his Yin release but as of right now, he could perform purely yang jutsu and it was time to attempt the Impure World Reincarnation. He got time off from Jiraiya once he demonstrated you could perform a completed rasengan, which he has to admit is a damn fine jutsu. He was in an isolated clearing in the panther realm and had a barrier erected just in case things went poorly. He had contract seals at the ready but didn't want to put the control seals mentioned in the scroll. He took some deep breaths, calming his nerves.

"Yang Release: Shadow Clone Jutsu" Naruto said then started the ritual for the Impure World Reincarnation. Once he was sure he had it complete, he performed the hand signs and whispered, "Summoning: Impure World Reincarnation" Naruto didn't have to wait long for the jutsu to take effect as each of his Yang clones were encased in an ethereal glow. Soon, both started to change their shape, taking on the forms of those called back. Naruto was shocked to see two women with hair similar to his, though neither had his blue eyes. Both women looked confused as if a haze had yet to be lifted. They noticed each other first, both shocked,

"Mito-sama?/Kushina-chan?" both questioned before they looked at the boy before them. Mito was silent and confused, she had no clue who this whiskered cheek boy could be but in her peripheral vision she could see Kushina trembling, as if trying to to not cry.

"Sochi? Is that you, Naruto? Where are we, this doesn't look like Konoha"

"I'm Naruto and this is the realm of the Panthers, my summons but what do you mean, Sochi?" Naruto wasn't dumb but after being denied information about his parents his entire life the idea that he'd just brought his mother back was unbelievable though the woman hugging him fiercely was quickly putting his disbelief to rest. It was sad but Naruto couldn't ever remember being hugged before. The feeling was indescribable."

"I'm your mother, Naruto. Didn't Hiruzen tell you about Minato and I? How has your life been?" she blurted out, finally releasing him.

"Um, the Old Man said he didn't know who my parents were. My life… I was a pariah growing up, not even my Academy Instructors liked me so I graduated early, at the age of 9. The Old Man didn't put me on a genin squad for three years." Naruto explained before something clicked, "Wait, Minato? You don't mean?"

"Yes, sochi, the Yondaime was your father. I-I hope you don't hate us for what we did. I argued against it but Minato was convinced you'd need the Kyuubi to defeat the man that attack us the night you were born."

"I don't hate you. I… I guess I just wish things had been different. Almost everyone treated me like I didn't exist."

"Naruto-kun?" Mito spoke. She hated to interrupt this moment between mother and son, especially since Kushina must have died almost immediately after giving birth, given how weak a jinchuuriki's seal becomes during childbirth but she needed to know how he brought them back. She was familiar with Tobirama's abomination and lonely childhood or not, she couldn't accepted someone being sacrificed to return them.


"Did you perform the Edo Tensei?"


"Sochi, no! You can't just sacrifice people."

"I didn't. I used a shadow clone made with yang release." he quickly explained.

"Oh, that was very creative."

"My sochi is a genius, Mito-sama!"

"Actually, I'm not. I just work really hard at and don't give up. Nothing genius about that."

"I don't know about that, Naruto-kun, Tobirama never came up with this and he invented both jutsu. Seems obvious in retrospect but the best insights do." Mito said.

"Ara, you knew the Nidaime?"

"Yes, I did. He was my brother in law. I'm Mito Senju nee Uzumaki and your predecessor."

"How so?"

"I was the first jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi, Kushina here was the second."

"Were you both hated, too?"

"No, sochi, no one knew we contained it."

"And I don't understand why Saru-chan would tell others." Mito said before a realization hit her, "Naruto-kun, if you didn't know who either of us were why did you summon us?"

"Orochimaru gave me the jutsu to figure out and said if I did I'd have answers about my history."

"You're Orochimaru's student? See, you are a genius. She wouldn't bother with someone untalented."

"No, she's a missing nin and considered Konoha's greatest traitor for illegal experimentation on villagers." he said, to receive a fist to his skull.

"Why would you trust the word of a missing nin?"

"Because I was desperate. The Old Man keeps me in the dark about everything concerning my past, he's manipulating me and I don't know why. I need all the information I can get in case-"

"In case what, sochi?"

"In case I need to abandon the village. He's already denied me a Chunin field promotion three times and never once explained why. I don't trust him and I don't like the villagers so I need to make arrangements."

"Is it really that bad?" Kushina asked, shame filling her for what she allowed to happen to her son.

"The villagers deny my existence. They've never hit me or anything but I know I'm not wanted and being stuck as a genin isn't raising my profile."

"I don't get it, why wouldn't Hiruzen want you to be a Chunin. Yes, you get more authority and can take on dangerous missions but rookie Chunin are hardly exposed to top secret documents or state secrets." Kushina said.

Mito sat quietly, piecing together everything she knew about Konoha law and what Naruto told her and came to a conclusion. "I think I may know why but it doesn't make sense for it to be the reason." she started. And proceeded to explain her theory.

Hiruzen never much cared for the Daimyo's satellite residence, the place he stayed when visiting Konoha. It was too ornate for his tastes and gave the feeling of being both too open and claustrophobic. He was curious why the Daimyo had summoned him, the two usually speak after the exams are finished. They had a good working relationship but weren't close; not like Hiruzen was with the man's father or how he was close to Minato. He arrived in his sitting room and was surprised with Danzo was there as well. Hiruzen bowed to the Daimyo and took his seat. Immediately he felt off as someone, Hiruzen reasoned one of the Guardian Ninja, activated a seal and Hiruzen felt his chakra become suppressed and out of his control. He saw Danzo came to the same realization. This was a trap, they had both been restrained and while strong, given their advance age they were weak without their chakra to buttress the ravages of time.

"Thank you both for arriving so promptly. There is a matter we need to address and I didn't want either of you to do something foolish, like try to manipulate me with a stolen sharingan" the Daimyo said while staring at Danzo. The man couldn't hide his shock and cursed he couldn't summon his Root to extract him. "Your shadows are already dead, Danzo. How dare you come to my residence with armed guards and try to hide their presence from me? Foolish old man. Hiruzen you've allowed this relic to become arrogant, among other things."

"What do you mean, Daimyo-sama."

"Oh, all will be explained but first I need to tell you a story. A little over a year ago, Tsunade paid me a visit. She actually requested an off the books meeting as she needed what was discussed to remain a secret between her and I. I, of course, was surprised. Tsunade hadn't been involved in shinobi affairs in decades but never acted contrary to my interests so it was neither here nor there. When she arrived she relayed to me a story of her own. How she'd met a young Uzumaki boy. Said he was dragged to her by a large, talking panther that requested her help. She was able to save him but not his Chunin leader. She spoke to the boy, asking subtle questions and, coupled with what the Chunin said before he succumbed to his injuries, she concluded the boy knew nothing of his clan or parentage. Apparently, he was a pariah due to his status as a jinchuuriki and his ostracization was near universal. She said he claimed he had existed on his orphan's stipend until he graduated. Now, that confused me. Because he would be a clan heir and in Fire Country when one is the last of their clan they are provided housing and are given a generous allowance from their clan funds while said funds are managed by the financial advisors I select to make sure they are not cheated.

Tsunade had no reason to lie to me but I couldn't just act on her word. She understood and only requested I perform an audit into Kushina and Minato's finances and anything else I could find out about Naruto. She gave me a blood sample and said if I should get any genetic material for either Minato or Kushina she'd happily run the tests to prove he was indeed their son. It didn't take long for the auditor to find the accounts had been tampered with, funds extracted illegally. It did take the auditor awhile to trace where the money went for each large withdrawal but he did it. Imagine my shock when the two who'd stolen from Minato and Kushina were you and Danzo. Those assets were primarily Uzumaki assets and that account should have been frozen until a verifiable Uzumaki came to claim them since Minato and Kushina had no living heir. Next was getting the samples need for the DNA test but I did and immediately summoned Tsunade back to run the tests. Imagine my shock when she confirmed her suspicion. I, of course, then ordered a quiet investigation to Naruto's life. And shocked I was again. His status as a jinchuuriki announced by you but some flimsy law telling no one to talk about it. Him receiving almost nothing but scorn and having to live in near poverty conditions when he should have had a comfortable existence. And then to see you deny him a promotion in order to avoid being discovered. You thought if he never made Chunin you'd never have to give him his full inheritance and it wouldn't trigger the automatic review I've instilled?

Why, Hiruzen? Why all of it? Why did you lie to me? Why did you ignore my laws? Why did and do you allow this demon in human flesh to run circles around you? Have you grown so weak you simply cannot perform the tasks required of an Hokage?"

"I lied about Naruto's heritage to protect him. The village was weak, weaker than it had ever been after the Kyuubi's rampage."

"Then why not send him to the capital? I could have protected him and made sure he'd be healthy and happy."

"I, initially, believed the villagers would get over their pain and see Naruto for who he is."

"And the money, why did you steal from Naruto but deny him what he was entitled to?"

"Same reason. We were in a terrible financial situation, especially so soon after a war. The civilians were demanding a say in governmental affairs since they were going to be providing a bulk of the money required to keep us solvent and functioning. My old teammates were pushing me to accept, no doubt for their own reasons. I need a quick infusion to take their leverage away. I'm not proud but if I had allowed some sort of civilian council, imagine how worse things would have been for Naruto?"

"You could have come to me, Hiruzen."

"I didn't really know you then, Daimyo-sama. I couldn't assume you wouldn't diminish my authority as well."

"So great is your concern about your authority you do nothing to curb Danzo's excesses?"

"I-I can't justify that. I used to say he was doing what he thought was right for the village but I was just too soft and he only cared about his own power."

"That's a lie, Hiruzen. Everything I do, I do for a more powerful Konoha."

"Sure, sure. Even pilfering the corpses of dead Konoha ninja. Understand this, Danzo, you won't be leaving this office alive. I won't allow a monster to exist in my country. As for you, Hiruzen, after the Chunin exams you are to vacate your office immediately. Have Jiraiya or Tsunade replace you. Even get that Kakashi brat to do it, I don't care but you are not fit to be Hokage any longer. You will, however, confess everything to Naruto and then I will try to salvage what I can. God help us if the boy hates you and all of Konoha enough to turn traitor."

"Daimyo-sama, I'll step down. You're right, I'm not fit to lead the village but don't tell Naruto. Orochimaru has taken an interest in him and this may push him into her clutches. We don't want that."

"No, no more delays. It's bad enough you ignored my law and I know this isn't the only instance as I only have to go to the Hyuuga compound to see an example of forced servitude but I'll be clearing that up after the exams as well. No, Naruto will be told everything and given the promotion he so richly deserves. I am so ashamed of you Hiruzen and I imagine Minato and Kushina are as well."

The stadium was packed and brimming with anticipation. All contestants but one were present but Hiruzen couldn't focus on that. His mind had been elsewhere since he was stripped of his position, even if it hadn't been made official yet. He was ashamed of how far he'd fallen, of the lies he told to others and himself. He had soothed his conscience by assuring himself he'd done what was best for the village but that wasn't the truth. The Daimyo even mentioned how his asymmetrical alliance with Suna was starving the village and how it was making Rasa desperate. The Daimyo took it upon himself to speak to his Wind Country counterpart to make sure Suna got enough funding. Hiruzen was creating an enemy, one with motive to attack them and the exams would have been the perfect time to do so. He'd lost a step both mentally and physically. It was time, he realized. It had long since been time.

He sat awaiting the arrival of Rasa and this new leader from Oto when he watched the two arriving together, chatting as if they were old friends. As the two sat beside him Rasa offered his greeting and Hiruzen returned it, formulaically. But when he heard the leader of Oto speak, his blood ran cold and he was about to summon his ANBU and attack when she stopped him.

"International Law, Sarutobi-sensei. You attack me now and you'll be sanctioned by other villages and nations, kukuku." She was right. And not only that but if he did attack her now there would be untold casualties and he couldn't allow that. He'd have to tolerate his wayward student for the time being.

Hiruzen wasn't the only person hosting a sannin as the Fire Daimyo was sitting beside Tsunade, both wanting to see how Naruto would do as well as be on hand when Hiruzen tells him the truth.

"Alright you lot, the rules are the same as they were in the preliminary round." Hayate stated to be interrupted.

"What about Sasuke and that Dosu guy?" Shikamaru asked.

"Dosu had to pull out due to injury" he said looking at Naruto, " and if Sasuke doesn't show up for his match he'll likely be disqualified. Now if there are no more questions all exit except Neji Hyuuga and Naruto Uzumaki."

Hayate watched as the other genin left and walked to the center of the stadium battleground along with the first two fighters. He announced the two and then called a start to the fight and watched as neither boy moved. All was quiet as the audience watched the Hyuuga prodigy stare down the bane of Konoha. The redhead had changed his clothes for the finals, ditching his normal blue pants, blue shirt and orange hooded vest for black hakama, tied at the ankle with blood red tape; a black sleeveless shirt with extra material at the neck for a Kakashi-esque face mask and a black kosode, with a chainmail mesh sewn into it. It was finished with an obi, the same color as the ankle tape and kept his sword to his side. He let his spiky hair rest on his shoulders, just past neck length.

"You should give up, Uzumaki. Winners and losers are chosen at birth and you are a loser." Neji started, only to see Naruto have no visible reaction. "You may have graduated early but clearly Hokage-sama saw you as a failure, why else would you have been denied a genin team and chance for promotion for so long?" he hissed; confident this would get a rise out of his opponent. He was surprised when it didn't. He decided if he couldn't get a rise out of the boy he'd initiate the attack and finish things quickly. He pushed off the ground and aimed a palm thrust at Naruto's chest, hitting the redhead flushly. Neji smirked until he saw the Naruto he hit flare briefly and then puff into smoke. He was confused why Naruto would send a clone to fight and then have said clone unable to do anything. He heard footsteps behind him and turned to see another Naruto, maybe the real one approach. He got ready to attack but halted when the boy spoke.

"Neji, look at the hand that struck my clone." he said and Neji did just that, only to see a sealing array on his hand, going up his forearm. "That's a localized explosive array. It'll take your arm off at the elbow and likely end your career. Concede now and I'll remove the array, don't and you lose an arm."

Neji was stuck, unfamiliar with indecision. He'd never heard of a clone that could impart a seal on someone when struck but then again, he wasn't aware of corporeal clones that dissolved into smoke either. His opponent put him in a bad position. He could try to strike Naruto but he was too far away for him to reach the redhead before he could activate the seal. And that assumes the seal does what Naruto claims it does. He could be lying or the seal could be a dud. If that's the case, he'd have given up due to an empty threat and his pride couldn't allow that. He remembers the boy was hesitant to do too much damage to Lee until Lee pushed him too far so him going for such a move as an opening didn't read to Neji.

Of course, Neji wasn't and couldn't have been aware of Naruto's current mental state. He'd felt his heart fill with the time he spent with his mom and Mito, who he called baa-chan much to the lady's delight. But there was a burning angry as well. The Sandaime had denied him much, for what reason Naruto didn't know and wouldn't ascribe a motive to the man because it didn't matter. Outside of his team and those he'd worked with in the past, he didn't care about Konoha ninja. He wasn't one of them and they truly were the "them" now. He saw them as weak minded traitors and cowards, unworthy of his parents' sacrifice and his father's trust. No, he didn't blame Minato for his childhood he blamed Konoha for not trusting their alleged hero even when all evidence stated they should. In the preliminaries, the Fuin Bunshin would have been preloaded with a paralysis tag because he didn't want to hurt a comrade. Now? Neji isn't a comrade, just a potential enemy.

Neji decided to call Naruto's bluff and charged toward the boy, he didn't have to wait long to realize his mistake. A quick flare of chakra is all it took and suddenly the arena was filled with the screams of Neji as he clutched what was once his arm. It was lucky for him that the position of his arm didn't allow bone fragments to fly into his eyes but he did have some burns and cuts along his side and leg. Hayate quickly called an end to the match and called forth the mednin. Naruto silently retreated to the contestant area. Both Shikamaru and Shino gave him a nod of acknowledgement and he formed a small smile.

"That was quite vicious, Hiruzen-dono, what jutsu was that?" Rasa stated.

"Kukuku, vicious indeed. It appears Konoha can still turn out real shinobi every now and again."

Hiruzen ignored his student as he began to answer Rasa, "Indeed but Naruto gave him a chance to concede. A shinobi shouldn't make empty threats and Neji had no reason to call his bluff if he couldn't recognize the array. Also, I believe Naruto-kun calls that a Fuin Bunshin. He was inspired by the Yondaime's ability to apply seals with just a touch but has taken it to new level."

"Such advanced seal materialization, he certainly has my vote for Chunin" Orochimaru said.

"I must agree, while short he did enough and revealed very little of his abilities." Rasa added. Hiruzen simply nodded.

The Jounin sensei were quiet at the end of the match. Truthfully, none knew what to expect out of the match; Neji was hailed as a genius whereas rumors circulated that Naruto had killed two A-rank shinobi in a single mission. However, he kept most of his skills hidden though demonstrated an impressive amount of kenjutsu skill against Gai's clone.

"That was most unyouthful!" Lee exclaimed, seeing his rival defeated and maimed by the same boy that so easily defeated him was hard to accept.

"Gai-sensei, we have to get to Neji." Tenten said but saw her sensei shake his head.

"We'd only be in the way, Neji is going to need a lot of help and the mednins need to be focused. As far as it being unyouthful, he was given a chance to submit, just like you were. It is, at times, laudable to not give in but as a Chunin you need to know when to back down for the sake of the mission and your comrades. I don't fault Naruto, he told Neji exactly what would happen if he attacked again."

"You're ok with what he did? That was a comrade he crippled!" Tenten yelled.

"Yes, it was and it was a comrade he tried to spare. Tenten, what would you have him do? Hold back and allow Neji to continue attacking?" Seeing the girl refuse the answer he continued, "Neji put his health on the line in the belief Naruto wouldn't hurt him. Like you, Lee, he was going to take advantage of his mercy. The difference is, this time Naruto didn't give more than one chance. As such, Neji's injury is my fault, I've instructed you poorly if none of you know how to stand down when you're outmatched." Gai finished, sounding more subdued than he ever has. Asuma and Kurenai could see he meant every word and while Kurenai still had some negative feelings toward the senior Jounin she wouldn't wish the belief you failed your students on anyone.

"You think he did enough for a promotion?" Asuma asked.

"I hope so, he's clearly ready. I've let him run some of our C-ranks and he's done well, he's clearly paid attention to what other Chunin did when he was stuck in the reserves." Kurenai answered.

Close by the Jounin sensei sat Anko. She'd never really had an opinion on her fellow pariah, not until she had expressed an interest in him. She was one of the few that saw the footage of their kenjutsu battle before the cameras cut out. He wasn't on her level, nowhere near but he was good, willing to change tactics on the fly to keep a superior opponent guessing. He also didn't hesitate to go for the kill. Normally, that kind of ruthlessness would be something Anko praised. But Orochimaru taints everything and Anko couldn't help but be wary of the container. She didn't know why Orochimaru was interested but it couldn't be for anything good and given the boy's experience in the village he had the signs of a flight risk; one that may run straight to the snake. His willingness to, potentially, end the career of a fellow Konoha ninja demonstrates how little connection he feels for the place. Orochimaru will exploit every weakness to get what she wants and to Anko, Naruto looked like an easy get.

Hayate was instructed to delay Sasuke's match and to move through the rest of the order. The next in line was Shikamaru and Temari. Shikamaru complained a lot about having to fight a girl, wondering if he should just forfeit. Shino and Naruto pushed him over the railing so he'd have to chance to do so; much to his annoyance and their amusement. It was a good tactical matchup and he'd manage to ensnare Temari but forfeited as he was out of chakra, shocking everyone but his teammates, sensei and fellow clansmen. Shino fought Kankuro and it was a little faster paced than Shikamaru's fight but still relied on inventive tactics. The boys fought to a double knockout as Shino was poisoned and Kankuro was entering chakra exhaustion. Finally, it was time for Gaara to face Sasuke. The match was almost called as the Uchiha and Kakashi arrived at the last possible moment.

It was a good fight, Naruto felt. Sasuke had some decent speed and made good use of it. Naruto thought the lightning jutsu was a mistake when he could have used a genjutsu and that was proven correct when Gaara turned into a miniature sand thing and trounced the Uchiha, who used too much chakra on that move. Luckily he escaped without serious injury as the Kazekage got Gaara under control and it was time for the semifinal round, Naruto vs Temari.

Temari was trying to quickly come up with a strategy. She'd used a lot of chakra in her first fight and hadn't had a chance to recover much. She knew the redhead was dangerous with his sword and she couldn't allow him to get close to her but his speed would be hard to negate. She reasoned if she could unleash a wind jutsu fast enough she could create some space and control the match. He hadn't shown much in the way of ninjutsu and she didn't believe he could match her fuuton mastery.

Naruto wasn't planning out a strategy, he already had one. Thanks to his summons spying on the competition he was aware that Temari was overly reliant on her war fan. If he took that away she'd be in a poor position and possibly give up. He knew just the thing. About six months into his own research, Naruto started building his own jutsu theory. It was slow, it required a lot of reading, testing and revisement but he felt he was truly on to something. While most ninjutsu seemed to be of the elemental variety, it didn't explain the ninpo; the jutsu that were predicated on a specific element. How did chakra become a poison gas, for instance. No one really knew. Naruto posited, what if ninpo are based on the elements but by combining, at least partially, the behaviors of one element with the property of another? Not all could be understood like this and one would have to incorporate Yin and Yang as well but he believed he was on to something. He hadn't managed to create many jutsu out of this insight but it has affected his kenjutsu.

Naruto learned early on he had a wind affinity and wind is said to be the sharpest element, though lightning is great for piercing. Naruto wondered what would happen if one took the sharpening process from wind and incorporated lightning's high frequency? Sound. You got sound and the better he got at grinding wind faster and faster the closer he got to what became his super sonic blade. This type of chakra flow is the sharpest, not even a vacuum blade compares. This was the key to his plan, Temari was about to lose her main weapon.

Hayate called a start to the match and Naruto blurred in front of Temari, not giving her a second to react, she just had time to start to open her fan before she heard a faint ringing in her ears. Next thing she knew her fan was in tatters and she had a sword to her throat.

"Yield." the shorter boy said and she quickly complied. Many in the crowd ad trouble following the action, they saw Naruto blur from view and then a series of flashes before he appeared beside Temari and her fan was cut up. The Chunin and Jounin, however, could follow it and were impressed. Asuma was confused.

"That was wind but it didn't behave like wind" Asuma said.

"What do you mean, Asuma?" Gai asked. Kurenai already knew about his supersonic chakra flow technique but saw no need to expound on it.

"Wind chakra is created by sharpening your chakra to a fine point and unleashing it, that's why it's ideal for cutting. It doesn't, however, emit a sound nor does it become visible. Lightning does that but that wasn't lightning. Kurenai, do you know what that was?"

"Yes and I won't be divulging it. If you want to know, ask Naruto. It was one of his creations."

"So, he really does create his own jutsu?" Asuma asked, surprise in his voice.

"Yes. How many, I'm not sure. He said most were just supplemental things that better versions of already existed but he's got some impressive ones as well. Gai almost got introduced to one."

"Hai, Hokage-sama informed me that in my distracted state I may not have escaped unharmed."

"Whatever that was, I need to learn it. I'll see if I got something to trade." Asuma said, only caring about the wind manipulation. He hadn't seen anything innovative involving wind chakra in years, especially not chakra flow. He need to know how to do that.

"Kukuku, I think that was just a bad matchup for Temari, Rasa-dono."

"I agree, But she appears too reliant on that fan, definitely Chunin material but I'll have to work with her on that. The Uzumaki's sword skills are impressive and he's fast. He must have been training his speed and sword techniques for several years to be at that level."

"Hai. I believe Naruto-kun picked up kenjutsu his second year at the academy."

"Oh, then you have some really good kenjutsu instructors" Rasa stated which caused Orochimaru to giggle, much to Hiruzen's annoyance.

"No, he self trained until he became a summoner and trained those skills with them."

"Ah. Either way, he is quite skilled. I wonder how he'll fight Gaara."

"Kukuku, I wouldn't be shocked if he forfeited. He's certainly earned a promotion."

"If that's the case, I expect you out of my village within the hour, Orochimaru."

"Why so hostile, Sarutobi-sensei?" she said with a grin on her face, annoying the Sandaime further. "Fine, I'll vacate, no need to cause an international incident."

Naruto was on the arena floor, debating if he should forfeit this next match. He'd proven all he needs to and if the Old Man doesn't promote him no one can say it is due to a lack of skill or ability. That makes this match completely pointless. Another part of him wants to stay, he wants people to see him, the social pariah and outcast, run through the competition. To easily defeat the prodigy, the strongest kunoichi in the competition and finally, Suna's mad jinchuuriki. He wasn't sure Gaara was one until his match with Sasuke but he has a way to incapacitate the boy. It would put some emphasis on the day and let all know Naruto Uzumaki isn't the one to try. But that's ego and a ninja doesn't need ego. Why reveal anymore than he needs to? It was difficult, his pride was telling him to just win the damn thing outright. But he's accomplished his mission and as a shinobi, that's a sign it's time to come home.

"I forfeit. I believe I've done enough to earn my promotion, I have nothing left to prove." Naruto announced and saw Hayate nod before he exited the arena via shunshin to appear by Kurenai who gave the redhead a hug and congratulated him on performing so well.

Hayate crowned Gaara the winner, though the boy didn't look pleased and called the Chunin Exams to a close. Just as they were starting to depart, an ANBU appeared by the Jounin Sensei to retrieve Naruto, per the Hokage's orders. Naruto couldn't hide his annoyance, he wanted to go check on his teammates, though he suspected Shikamaru was just napping in the medbay.

Naruto arrived with the ANBU to the Hokage Tower and was escorted to the Hokage's office. Naruto really didn't understand why this ANBU was on his ass but he just ignored it, she was only following orders. When got to the office door he saw two samurai standing outside it, which was weird. The ANBU ordered him to stay there until he was called and then she went inside the office.

"Those were some pretty sweet sword skills, kid. Never thought I'd see a Tenken user, especially not a shinobi one."

"You know my style?"

"Yes, it's an old style but most people can't learn it due to the damage done to the leg muscles. How long have you been practicing and how many steps from the shukuchi was that?"

"I started learning when I was seven from a scroll that was gifted to me. And I was three steps shy. While I can move faster, I can only go up to two steps for the Shukuchi until my body matures." Naruto said while rubbing the back of his head. He wasn't used to being praised by strangers nor getting to talk kenjutsu, it was nice.

"Impressive" the same Samurai said. "Oh and just a word of warning, the Daimyo is in there so mind your manners."

"Thanks. Being an orphan, that stuff doesn't come naturally but I'll do my best, Samurai-san."

"It's Sojiro, kid and this is Shishio."

"Naruto Uzumaki, nice to meetya."

"Likewise" Shishio said. The trio continued to chat away until Naruto was summoned into the office. Upon entering, Naruto saw the Old Man, surrounded by his advisors. Jiraiya and Tsunade were both there, he shot her a quick smile but sitting to the side of the office was, he assumed the Daimyo. He bowed, deeply to the man, and shot a quick one to the Old Man. He hated the weak, old bastard but it'd do him no favors to act like a brat now.

"Hokage-sama." he said evenly.

"Naruto-kun, please sit down we have a lot to discuss. First, I want to congratulate you on your promotion to Chunin. It's long overdue." Hiruzen said and saw Naruto's jaw tense for a split second.

"Thank you, Hokage-sama."

"No thanks, necessary. Next, Naruto, I have to tell you some things that will not be pleasant for either you nor I. I just want you to listen completely and then we can discuss where we go from here." He saw the redhead nod and continued. "After the Kyuubi attack, the village was in a vulnerable position and the Hokage position was as well. We needed more funds to keep ourselves functioning but the more wealth civilians wanted power in exchange. I could levy taxes but they could also leave. I couldn't afford to call their bluff or wait them out so in a moment of well intentioned idiocy I pilfered from an account. An Uzumaki account; your inheritance. I won't lie, it was a large sum though I managed to pay it back years later, with interest I didn't watch the account as closely as I should have. Another person also took a generous sum from the accounts. He never repaid what he stole, likely banking on blackmailing me should I call him on it. Trying to fix what I did or allowed to happen has taken a long time and truthfully, you have not been made whole. That is why I have delayed your promotion, when you become a Chunin you are a true adult and in accordance with Daimyo-sama's laws, are granted full access to your clan funds and vaults. You reaching this rank also triggers an automatic audit from an accountant approved of my Daimyo-sama himself." He took a moment to collect himself and then continued.

"This law, designed to protect the last member of loyal Konoha clans would have dictated you be provided a house and a plot of land with the option to expand your property up to ten years after you made Chunin. The issue is, for me to have followed the law for you it would have required my revealing who your parents are as the funds to purchase the land comes from a tax paid by all shinobi clans. Even yours has paid into this account even though there have only ever been three members residing here. Naruto, your parents are the Yondaime Hokage and-"

"Kushina Uzumaki. I know."


"That hardly seems relevant, Hokage-sama. Please continue."

"If any of your parent's enemies realized they had a child, one that was unprotected in a village trying to recovery from a massive attack you'd either be kidnapped or dead."

"That's not entirely true, Hiruzen. Tell him the whole truth." The Daimyo ordered.

"I could have sent you to the Capital, Minato and Daimyo-sama were close and the royal family has always had a good relationship with the Uzumaki, which is why much of their wealth wasn't lost during Uzushio's downfall. I didn't send you away because I wanted you to grow to love Konoha and desire to protect it like your parents did."

"How could revealing my status be any safer than revealing my parentage?"

"I believed the people would follow Minato's wish to see you are a hero. I underestimated the hurt they carried and how my law only allowed the ignorance to fester. Because I didn't address the issue diligently, it left an open space for their irrational fears to grow and grow and grow. With you advancing as fast as you did, many were concerned it was the fox; even my shinobi that should have known better."

"Who is the other person that stole from me and why did you let him?"

"His name was Danzo Shimura. He was once a friend and a longtime rival of mine. He used to head a division of ANBU called Root. While militant and misguided, he truly loved Konoha and I used that as a excuse to ignore when he'd overreach. He was executed on Daimyo-sama's orders."

"When did this occur?"

"Two days ago."

"That long? You let him use my family's resources for god knows what and did nothing?"

"I won't lie to you, Naruto, I've held the seat for too long. I've been soft when I should have been firm, too trusting when I should have been suspicious and too passive when action was needed. I've wrong you because of this and you may not believe me or you may not care but I am truly sorry. I know I've driven you away because of these secrets and I won't ask you to understand but I truly was attempting to do what was best for everyone." Naruto didn't bother responding, whether it was true or not was irrelevant. He'd suffered because of this weak, old man and he'd not have any of his excuses.

"So, what happens now?"

"I'll answer that. You will select where you want your compound to be and have my personal architect design the house with you. We'll get started on construction as soon as possible. Hiruzen will be holding a meeting of the clan heads where he will not only inform them of your heritage, your new residence but some other things as well. Naruto, I cannot apologize enough for what you have been deprived. You may not hold much affection for Konoha or even Fire Country but I hope you'll allow me to rectify that. I truly respected Minato and was quite fond of Kushina."

"Thank you, Daimyo-sama."

"Now, I believe Tsunade and Jiraiya wish to discuss some things with you so you three are excused."

All three bow and Hiruzen gives Naruto a ticket to pick up his Chunin vest from the armory. The two leaders spoke a while more until there was a knock at the door.

"Hiruzen, there is one final thing you're going to have to do and this is going to hurt more than anything else." the Daimyo said before giving permission for the individual outside to enter. In walked Orochimaru that instantly put the Hokage on edge, ready for an attack. "Calm down, Hiruzen. She is here at my invitation. Orochimaru has provided me proof that everything she did she was ordered to do by Danzo and seeing as how you did virtually nothing to stop him, she shouldn't be held responsible for the orders of a superior officer. As such, effective immediately, Orochimaru is to be reinstated as an Elite Jounin of Konoha; all crimes pardoned without exception."

"No, this is a bridge too far."

"It isn't a request, Hiruzen. This is an order and this will be one of your last acts. I expect you to announce her return within 48 hours, do I make myself clear?"


"Kukuku, I'm so happy to be back Sarutobi-sensei."