I'll make the note short so you can get right into the new chapter and I'll just say I was very ill for a couple weeks and then suffered a death in the family and it completely killed my capacity to write for almost a month, hence the delay. It was expected for the last few years, but it still hurt, so I just did absolutely nothing for awhile.

I'll also be completely absent from updating and being active on my server for about a month after this update because I'll have no internet, so rest assured I'm not dead.

This chapter was made available earlier on my discord server, so feel free to join it to get chapters ahead of time.

This is the link, just remove the space: discord /2XN2rzuFpM


"If you hit me with that stupid Genjutsu again, I'll break your other arm, -ttebeyo!" Naruko practically shouted at me, her eyes screwed up in aggravation while glaring up at me from her position on the ground. I was currently hanging from the tree above, out of arm's reach, with the assistance of chakra.

"Hey," I protested, backing away to the other side of the tree to get away from her so she wouldn't slap at me or throw her shoe again, "You said for me to help you break different Genjutsu, and that's the only reason I did an auditory Genjutsu. You remember what happened with the ocularly induced visual ones."

I was currently waiting for Hayate to get here for my first Kenjutsu lesson since I almost got, well, blown up and nearly killed. Naruko, being the doting and caring friend she was, decided to help me pass the time by insisting I help her with Genjutsu breaking while I was doing my strength enhancement exercises by punching and kicking a steel plate suspended by a chain from the tree branch with the other end of the chain bolted to a boulder I sealed into a scroll. A week into me educating her on the needed theoreticals to graduate, and she already required an outlet for her Kurama induced crackhead energy.

"Just say sound or vision Genjutsu." Naruko pouted at my word choice. "Auditory and ocular sound weird."

Naruko really wasn't stupid, honestly. Even when I was tempted to think she was a born in the purple dumbass like right now, she wasn't. She just preferred the most painfully straightforward solutions or descriptions of things, including words. It was contrary to my preference to use the words that fit the best, which made it all the more amusing that we were actual friends.

"My answer to that is one word, Naruko." I said, letting myself fall to the ground and I threw my arm out, putting most of my weight on my left arm and twirling to roll to my side while letting my leg fly forward and strike the plate one final time with a resounding clang. With one swift motion, the rolling momentum propelled me to my feet and I grinned at her. "Mine!"

At the use of that word, Naruko threw a kunai at me that I almost rolled my eyes at it as I flicked it aside with my index and middle fingers striking the flat end and sending it clattering to the ground; I made a note to keep the sleeve of my coat from getting cut by it. But the fact that she also intentionally didn't throw an actual one, but the blunted one with the red handle, was encouraging though, because it meant she didn't aim to kill me.

"You jerk!" She shouted, being reminded of the constant shouts of 'Mine! Mine! Mine!' that was the Genjutsu I hit her with. I was just wanting to share the wonderful sound of Finding Nemo's greatest scene, so I couldn't possibly understand her aggravation.

And besides, she asked me to hit her with an auditory Genjutsu to learn how to break it.

"This is what I get for helping a blonde." I muttered to myself as I shook my head maturely, saying it loud enough so she could hear. Said blonde then stomped towards me and stared up at me, a full pout developing already.

"You're just jealous my hair is pretty." She settled on saying, shaking her head to get the beginnings of her regrown hair to flick against her ears and temple. "Prettier than yours."

I neglected to give my actual thoughts on that, because I didn't want to stroke her ego and prove her right. Her hair was prettier than mine, but I was a guy.

"Sure, let's go with that." I rolled my eyes, reaching out with the sole of my sandal to tap my foot against the kunai on the ground. With a quick flex of my chakra, I stuck it to my foot and put my foot up to waist level, then dropped the blunted steel into my hand.

Naruko, needless to say, was unamused.


Before I could make my own retort about being cooler than her, I saw something in my peripheral vision and I turned sharply, spotting the man I had been waiting for since about 45 minutes ago.

Hayate had, by the looks of it, intentionally moved from my left side where my blind spot was to within my sight a couple hundred yards away to alert me that he was here. That was rather polite of him.

"What?" Naruko asked, looking at me strangely from my abrupt shift in focus away from her while standing just a foot away. A second later, it clicked for her and she turned to look where I was as well, and she did her normal act of waving at the total stranger and smiling brightly.

"Hi!" She shouted with that same bubbly happiness that was so adorably sweet and endearing. This girl couldn't possibly contain a giant rage demon capable of leveling mountains.

If there was anything I could honestly envy Naruko over, it was her ability to be that obscenely happy at the drop of a hat. Low emotional maintenance was probably her actual superpower, not Talk-no-jutsu. Or maybe whatever possible entity sent me here, cruel and schizophrenic god he was, thought it'd be funny to make me be drawn to my polar opposite.

That's scary. Quit thinking that, brain.

Thankfully, I was rescued from my own thoughts by Hayate when he reached earshot distance, his hand raised in greeting. He had definitely dressed for the cold, with his thicker black pants, a coat with a fur collar over his armour, and some gloves that I could see had a few seals on them. What else I noticed was that his bokken was looped through the back of his coat, the hilt poking just above his right shoulder.

"Hey, Sasuke." He said, clearing his throat and stopping himself from coughing. His eyes then went to Naruko and returned the smile she gave, albeit more subdued. "Is this your friend Naruko?"

"Yes sir." She nodded happily, not even letting me reply as she practically bounced on her toes. "Sasuke said you're a really cool swordsman. You're better than anybody he knows. I want to see you fight! Can I watch?!" Her voice and excitement progressively rose with each word and even I was surprised at the intensity on display. The girl really wanted to watch me fight against someone that wasn't my own clone.

Hayate's head tilted back in surprise, his eyes blinking more than once as he was subjected to an Uzumaki fueled demand/request for violence.

After an internal battle in his head, Hayate seemed to clear his head and smiled. "Sure thing, kid, if Sasuke's fine with it."

If I wasn't fine with it, I still would have let her stay. She got bored easily and would possibly blow something up by accident if she was distracted ever since she got ahold of some rudimentary seal manual a third cousin of mine doodled in that I was going to give her to read when we did our electives.

Needless to say, she found it when I was moving things and she read it because of the 'explosives' marker on the inside of the cover. And to top it off, the blonde pouted when I expressly forbade her from screwing with explosives in my house, or anywhere without an adult present. Too many dumbass cousins of mine gave a bad name to the family by doing things with fireworks that would have given the ATF a heart attack for me to be comfortable with experimenting with what are basically bombs.

"Naruko can watch." I shrugged after thinking about bombs for a little too long, not minding her being present in the slightest.

Actually, wait, no. She's supposed to be studying for the test in a few days.

"You can watch the first part," I added to my previous acceptance, "But then you need to read up on the test stuff, alright?"

Naruko maturely stuck her tongue out and made a gagging gesture at having to study again.

Wait, I'm an idiot.

"Nevermind, I forgot you can make clones." I dropped my head down and groaned to myself for overlooking that as an option for today. "Just send a few back home now and read up on the books. And I'll know if they pop to avoid studying." I added the end as a warning.

"But it's boring." She whined, laying it on more thickly to have her cake and eat it too. At my completely deadpan gaze, she slumped and gave up on manipulating me into being any less of a taskmaster as I was to get her over the line to graduate early. "Okay, fine." With that, she made the signature sign used by her male counterpart to spawn 7 blonde and orange clad clones with identical popping sounds. "You know what to do, girls. To graduation, -ttebeyo!"

The gaggle of blondes repeated the war cry and, in a show of profound genius and stupidity both, one of them got the bright idea to mimic what I learned to do rather well by making the tiger hand seal and Shunshined away.

The clone promptly face-planted into a tree from going too fast and exploded in a puff of chakra laden smoke. The shock of it made the chattering blondes go silent and stare at the spot where their sister died, then to their progenitor.

Naruko clutched her head and groaned at the sensation and memory of hitting the tree before addressing the survivors. "Just go and read before it gets late. Go slow, -ttebeyo!" She shouted as the clones scrambled away at a more sedate pace.

And like she didn't just see and feel her clone die painfully, Naruko looked back at Hayate and me with the same excitement as before.

"Maybe she'll want to learn too," I remarked to Hayate, like what just happened didn't occur, period."So I can play teacher for once."

Hayate raised a brow at that last part, deciding to humour me and respond right away. "You'll probably be a good teacher, I can see the natural talent. But I need to ask, do you have your bokken?"

I didn't say a word and instead reached into my pocket and pulled out the storage scroll I managed to make from copying a seal schematic with my Sharingan. Was it cheap? Of course it was, but I didn't care. All I needed for functionality was the McDonald's quality seals, so it didn't matter.

The cough-ridden Jonin nodded appreciatively, peering at the seal closely.

"Could use a little bit more work on the edges of the seal, but it's fine for what you use it for." He said in a clinical tone, before setting his hand on the hilt of his bokken and pulling it free. He then flourished it in a flowing pattern while he looked at Naruko with a smirk at her reaction.

Naruko was all smiles at that, marveling at the speed and dexterity on display.

"Cool." She murmured excitedly.

Honestly, that insulted me a bit. I could do that same flourish at a similar speed and she didn't think it was that impressive.

Whatever, think about it later.

I mirrored what he did, sort of, and popped the seal to deposit my own bokken into my hand in a puff of smoke. Flicking my own wrist, I imitated that same elaborate flourish with my sword that he did, the faint whistle of it cutting through the chilly air making me grin in anticipation.

It might have also helped that Naruko looked absolutely giddy now, looking back and forth between us.

"Just the basic stuff?" I asked, looking up at him as I gripped the hilt with both hands and had the tip of the bokken aligned with his chin in a high guard position. Even if it had been weeks since I had held my bokken with both hands, it was ingrained in my head after so many months of training and conditioning.

"Whatever you are comfortable with, including your Sharingan and the strength thing you do." Hayate offered, adopting a familiar defensive guard with his back leg sliding back to adjust his balance. "Come at me so I can gauge what we need to work on to get you back to what you were."

I didn't let it show, but the permission to attack with the chakra enhanced strength technique sent a thrill through me. Most of my training was specifically to work on proper movement and blade positioning, particularly edge alignment when slashing and maintaining that while using more acrobatic maneuvers than permissible for unamped humans.

With a quick closing of my eyes and settling myself in for the spar, my Sharingan activated and revealed the much sharper details and features of the world that only a handful still alive could understand. Just before I could ready myself to begin a probing assault, Hayate added one last thing.

"No hand sniping."

That made me cringe and I grimaced while subconsciously clenching my off hand. That shit hurt like you wouldn't believe, and my hand had just healed from being practically splintered in all the worst places. Fuck. That.

I darted forward once Hayate finished speaking and gave me a brief nod. My bokken crashed against his with a loud clack and his came up in a defensive parry, pushing mine to the left and followed it up with a downward cut towards my shoulder.

My almost immediate response was a diagonal slash that doubled as both an attack and defensive move that transitioned into a stab that I had to lean into because my bokken was single edged.

Hayate ducked under the quick attack sequence and took a step back, lowering himself closer to the ground and crouching slightly. His blade was now horizontal and pointed straight at my chest in a prepped stance.

"Good. Really good." He smiled, taking a step to his left. Then another. "You seem to have the wrist flexibility to do that still. Again, attack!"

"Go, Sasuke!" Naruko shouted from next to the tree as I complied and attacked at a furious pace, the clack of wood against wood sounding out constantly as Hayate appraised just how much needed to be done to get me back to my previous skill level.

It was at this point that my Sharingan started to be an impediment. I was able to dissect and spot two or three openings in Hayate's form that could be exploited and punished, but they were all traps. The constant influx of useless information was maddening when someone could exploit and hide any actual gaps in a pile of false ones.

A stab towards Hayate's chest was buffed by me enhancing the muscles in my wrists, elbows, and shoulders with chakra to sharply breach his guard. Hayate's bokken unfortunately was able to make contact to shift it aside, but he had to take a step back to regain his balance at the abrupt shift in strength.

Since I was already 'warmed up' when it came to channeling chakra in my extremities, I tensed my brow and started circulating chakra through my arms in a constant stream, the bokken's hilt creaking as my grip strength multiplied tenfold.

The chakra in my recently healed arm lagged somewhat compared to my dominant, which I had trained constantly still. It meant I'd need to lead even more with that side.

Hayate noticed it, judging by his eyes narrowing slightly and the faint chakra halo around him that everybody with decent chakra reserves had when not concealing themselves darkening a shade.

My first slash at his blade to knock it aside missed when he dipped it under and around my blade, the tip stabbing towards my chin and under my guard in a flash. He went full speed to put the first spar to an end.

A gasp of shock I failed to suppress was released and I sloppily pivoted to avoid it, the tip of the bokken catching a lock of my hair instead. I backpedaled and raised my bokken in a high guard, forming a hand seal with both hands clasped around my blade's hilt to adjust the flow rate of chakra in my arms to raise it. I had the chakra to burn.

Hayate was obviously well appraised of my offensive technique and wanted to see my defensive ones. He did not disappoint for long and darted forward with several probing stabs that I was able to read the trajectory of with my Sharingan and deflected or diverted the first three in rapid succession. I countered the fourth and final one aimed at my sternum by slashing downward at it and stepping forward, into Hayate's guard, and lashed out with a punch from my right hand.

Hayate looked unbothered and used his supporting hand to block my somewhat strengthened punch with his left. What followed next was, to be honest, shocking that I managed it properly when I had never done it before.

My Sharingan caught his movement in my peripheral vision, but I wasn't able to pull my hand and bokken closer to my chest. Hayate kicked at my hand, specifically next to it where the hilt of my sword met the blade and the impact pushed my arm out of position.

Like the trained fighter he was, Hayate slashed up to strike my bokken again, knocking my arm higher up and twirling his wrist to bring his own sword crashing down towards my face.

I scrambled to stop it and let go of my bokken with my left hand in fright and grabbed at the wooden sparring sword with my right hand just before it would have struck a lethal blow had it been a real sword. The only reason my grip held was because of the overwhelming amount of chakra enhanced strengthening I did, and the result was pins and needles crawling up from the tips of my fingers to my shoulder and into my neck.

Naruko's cheering had abruptly cut off and she let out a cry of shock and fear when it happened, but the sound was lost in the tunnel visioning that I experienced.

It had all gone in slow motion, thanks to adrenaline and my Sharingan. My fingers never touched the edge itself, but the flat sides of the bokken. The strength behind his attack knocked me to the ground anyway though, and the bokken thankfully didn't actually 'hit' me.

Every ligament that connected my shoulder to my chest screamed in protest on top of my Brachial? plexus burning in a way only nerve pain could, but it technically worked.

"Huh," Hayate tilted his head in curiosity at what I did, still standing over me with his weapon firmly within my grasp. "Normally the only people good enough to do that are Jonin or higher. Sharingan?"

"Y-yeah." I managed to say, feeling profoundly vulnerable because I was technically unarmed and had a weighted training sword just over six inches away from my already scarred and beat up face. I seriously didn't want to start collecting more scars before I even graduated to be an actual Shinobi.

Hayate chuckled and tapped at his index finger against his hilt. "Mind giving me my sword back?"

"Oh!" I just realized I was still death gripping it so hard my knuckles were white. I let go and rolled to my side, then pushed myself up to my feet and turned to look at Hayate while dusting myself off with my hand. "What's the verdict, Sensei?"

Hayate grimaced at being called Sensei, but that's precisely why I said it. "Your offense needs more work than your defense, but how much you've recovered is, honestly, really impressive."

I fought the urge to blush at the unwarranted praise. Most of the credit went to me circulating healing chakra through my arm when doing the recommended light stretches to break up any scar tissue the doctors couldn't scrape out of my wrist and fingers, so it wasn't really my idea; Kabuto recommended it.

It was at that moment that Naruko chimed in.

"That was awesome, -ttebeyo." Naruko looked genuinely ecstatic at seeing me spar with someone else, and I might have also been silently marveling at just how intense the faint chakra outline around her was. My Sharingan was still active and I just stared for a moment. She had next to no ability to suppress her chakra at the moment, and it was very reactive to her emotions.

"Yep." Hayate responding to Naruko made me blink and snap back to reality and I deactivated my dojutsu to conserve chakra for now. Now that I was focusing once again, I looked towards my teacher. "Using a sword is cool, isn't it?"

Naruko nodded vigorously, before staring at me with a complete seriousness that never boded well for me. It meant she had made a decision about something, something I probably wouldn't be aware of until weeks or months into the future.

Thankfully, she stopped staring at me like that after a few seconds and I looked down at my bokken on the ground. I walked over and snatched it up quickly before I turned my attention back to Hayate.

"Another round, Sensei?" I asked innocently, the wind picking up some. Hayate's brow twitched and he let out a faint cough, probably from the cold air. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve and offered a grin.

"If you aren't tired already, kid."

My response was me gripping my bokken with both hands and activating my Sharingan.

The rest of the training session lasted for about an hour before my hand started to ache from a combination of fatigue and the cold weather, but it was an eventful hour that helped shake the rust off my Kenjutsu skills better than if I just sparred with my clones.

It came to an end and Hayate let out a rather harsh cough that I would have thought had, just by sound, blood in it. It thankfully wasn't and he said he needed to get out of the cold air, gave me a polite goodbye and did the same with Naruko.

After bidding Hayate farewell and getting back to my house with Naruko, I ignored her clones perched on practically every article of furniture in my front room while reading and went straight to my room for my own training that Naruko would be unhelpful at best for.

I closed the door and formed two shadow clones, ordering them to my left and right as I sat down on the floor with my legs crossed. The exercise and sparring from earlier made it easier for me to sink into a meditative state, and I did just that while my clones did their business. The faint crackle of static was all I could hear as my eyes remained shut.

After a few minutes, my heart rate steadied out enough alongside my chakra and raised up my hands steadily to form a hand seal. My chakra responded to my will and a smouldering warmth filled my extremities, followed by my lungs inhaling, and a faint cloud of steam that I didn't need to see to know exited past my lips.

Another inhale was all I needed to saturate my tenketsu with fire affiliated chakra and I made another three hand seals, activating the chakra draining technique and reaching my hand out as it triggered.

My dominant hand swept horizontally from my left to my right, then back again. A feeling not too different from static dancing along my fingertips was felt at two different distinct moments, revealing my elusive targets.

"5 o'clock. 1 o'clock." I murmured, opening my eyes to confirm that I did spot the crackly feeling of chakra with my currently rudimentary Katon sensing. Sure enough, the clones, both containing a small orb of electricity in the palm of their hands, were exactly where I felt them, the two of them sporting matching grins that I returned with an equal fervor.

"Nice, now lower the chakra use by 10%." I ordered, shutting my eyes once again. "We're going all in."

I was going to get this done before I graduate. The Hyuga can eat their hearts out with their super eyes, I'm making myself comparable in value individually to their entire clan.

With that internal proclamation, I began once again.


One week later:

"Finished already?" Iruka asked curiously as I set the completed written test on his desk. "It's only been 20 minutes."

Naruko and I technically had to pass our year's graduation test, at least the written part, before we could take the next year's written test to get pushed ahead. What I just finished was our year, and she was currently in a separate room so I couldn't send signals to her about the answers.

The fact that they accurately deduced what I would do was a bit annoying, if I were honest.

"I got an eye for detail, Iruka-sensei." I said nonchalantly, hiding my smile behind a wall of detached boredom at my joke.

Iruka smiled softly at my pun, before focusing his attention on checking the answers off as correct or not. The answer sheet was to his right, and I watched as his eyes flickered down the page to confirm each and every answer.

It only took a few minutes and a double-checking to confirm that I got the answers correct, and Iruka signed a sheet of paper that confirmed my passing of this year's final test for graduation.

The smile of approval was as good an answer as I needed to know I passed with flying colours.

"Are you wanting to take the physical test now or the written test for the year ahead?" He asked, holding up the clipped together papers that I assumed was the end of year test for the year ahead of Naruko and me to attend the final year of the academy.

"I'll do that now and then I'll go through the two physical tests." I shrugged my shoulders at the question, confident that I would pass those no problem. I'd rather get through the written test and be done with it.

Iruka nodded and handed me the papers. I took them and grabbed the pencil I'd used back off the desk and went back to my previously chosen seat, beginning the test.

I had no idea how long it took, but it was a little longer than the first one. This test had a few more mathematical calculations that, while easy, required a few simple equation tricks to do. Stuff like dosage amounts concerning medicine that needed to be dissolved in water, time questions about the effects of distance covered, and other topical hypotheticals for the average child soldier in training.

It took closer to 45 minutes by my estimate to complete it, but it wasn't all too difficult for me because of a mixture of my past experiences with highschool level math and my dojutsu's perfect recall. I jotted down the final answer, then stood up with the finished test and walked back over to Iruka, presenting it to him without comment like I did with the other one.

Another round of checking the answers later, Iruka signed off the confirmation that I passed and the scarred teacher turned his gaze from the papers and towards me.

"Physical test now?" He asked, smiling as he already knew the answer.

"I was born ready, Sensei." Those words might have suited Naruko's devil-may-care attitude more than my perpetually bored tone of voice, but I honestly was looking forward to it. Another year of training under what was likely to be Kakashi and I'd hopefully be able to put up a better fight against Orochimaru and Itachi…

If it even came to that.

"Okay." Iruka sat up and gestured for me to follow him towards the door that led outside in the yard, which I complied. "Taijutsu test first, then we'll move on to your physical ones."

I nodded and we went outside, the clouds parted somewhat and the breeze was absent so the weather wasn't too cold. I still was wearing a long sleeve shirt though because the scars on my arm still looked awful to the other kids; civility demanded that I not scare or sicken kids, even if I personally found the scars to be badass. I caved an ANBU's head in with my bare hands and it took a bomb to almost kill me, so the wounds from that weren't something to be ashamed of.

Shaking that thought aside, I steeled myself in preparation for the physical test that would jumpstart me a year ahead of canon's schedule and hopefully change everything to my benefit.


Naruko set her pencil down shakily, her face flushed as she finished the final question. It had taken her forever, almost to the point of the two hour time limit, but she finished it. She'd almost started crying in frustration at several of the questions and she was so terribly high-strung, but it was all over now and she wouldn't have to deal with non-stop book study now.

Grabbing the paper, the hyperactive blonde stood up and took it to Mizuki, handing it to the blue haired assistant of Iruka-sensei.

"Finished." She mumbled, feeling too drained to boast about it. All her enthusiasm died in the first five minutes and she just wanted to get the day over with. She felt like how Jiji looked, all wrinkly and tired. Getting to crash at Sasuke's house and have a few days off sounded amazing.

Mizuki peered at her for a moment as he accepted the papers, politely nodding and looking down at the papers to compare the answers to the answer sheet currently on the desk he was using himself.

"Hmmm." Mizuki hummed to himself, a frown flitting across his face for a moment as he marked something on her paper with a pen.

Naruko couldn't help but begin to fidget at the act and silence, each mark put down making her wince as she tried to keep track of what the minimum passing grade was.

I'm going to pass. I'm going to pass. I'm going to fai- no! Don't mark it again!

Her thoughts got progressively more chaotic as she stopped counting how many times Mizuki marked her paper and she pressed her already sweaty palms against her forehead, pressing hard as she fought the urge to scream.

"You pass."

Her hands immediately dropped to her sides and her head shot up, her eyes wide?

"What?" She asked timidly, praying she heard him right.

"You pass." He repeated himself, stacking the papers properly and putting up his pen in the desk. "74%."

The passing grade was 65% if she remembered Sasuke correctly. She passed…

She passed!

"I… yes!" She exclaimed, pumping her fist in the air as all the nervousness and anxiety disappeared completely. "I knew I would, -ttebayo!"

She and Sasuke were going to be pushed ahead together.

"Are you ready to do the physical test now or do you wish to wait a little while?"

"Now, Mizuki-sensei." She replied immediately. She wanted to be done now.

"Okay." Mizuki nodded, standing up from his desk without any fanfare and he gestured for her to follow him. "Sasuke should be finishing up soon, so follow me."

Naruko listened and walked quickly to catch up to Mizuki, who had briskly walked towards the door at the corner of the room and opened it, holding it open for a moment so she could scurry out.

"Thanks, Mizuki-sensei." She said, paying mind to Sasuke's advice about being even slightly polite could go a long way to get people to be the same. Granted, he also used some very bad words to describe, in detail, the kind of people she shouldn't worry about befriending or being polite to.

Speaking of Sasuke, she looked across the yard where they would generally spar and she saw a complex obstacle course that a black and red blur was going through with no difficulty.

A brief frown of confusion and a few thought trains later, she remembered that Sasuke had mentioned that he thought they were going to seal some equipment and bring it to the academy grounds. It appeared he was right and the blonde watched from the sidelines with Mizuki.

Sasuke was practically flying across the suspension bars, arching his body on the last one and flinging himself forward into an acrobatic roll. He wasted no time and darted forward, leaping up and flinging three shuriken at a dummy, before flinging a kunai with his other hand straight into the head of another wooden dummy without breaking his stride.

Watching him move like this without sparring against her made her understand, once again, just how scary her friend could look. His black hair, quiet demeanor, Sharingan eyes darting around, absorbing every tiny detail to take apart and understand; it all combined together to make him like those panther things she saw in the Forest of Death the one time she went there before Sasuke and her became friends.

"Time!" Iruka called out, holding a stopwatch in his right hand while holding a clipboard in the other.

Sasuke came to a stop and wiped at his forehead, his breathing barely elevated from the exertion that the physical test resulted in.

Iruka said something else that Naruko couldn't hear, but Sasuke responded positively to it by smiling widely. It wasn't the more reserved kind he usually had, it was normal and it made her happy to see it.

Sasuke's eyes, still crimson red, caught sight of her and she waved, which he returned. He then said something to Iruka before walking towards her, closing the distance quickly.

"Passed with flying colours!" Was the first thing out of Sasuke's mouth as he reached her and Mizuki, still smiling brightly as he said it. His

"That's great." Naruko replied brightly, happy that Sasuke succeeded. Sure, she knew it was guaranteed anyway, but it was still something that made her feel good. Now it was her turn to do well.

"Oh, and Iruka-sensei says you can go ahead now." Sasuke said after a moment, pointing towards where the aforementioned man stood with an expression on his face that he was thinking deeply about something. "I'll just stand by and watch."

" 'kay." Naruko's reply was rather simple and she raced towards Iruka, totally ready to ace this test and be pushed a year ahead and a year closer to being a full fledged ninja.


Naruko was walking right next to me, still hopping giddily after we left the academy as she ate the ice cream I bought to celebrate the day. She didn't just complete the physical test, she almost actually beat the record I had set for a few of them and I got to watch it in high definition with my Sharingan.

My kunai and weapons related ones were still superior, noticeably so, but the parts pertaining to running, striking targets with foot or fist, or the acrobatics were surprisingly close. It made me so proud, of both my best friend and myself as the one who has a major contributor to her success. The restless nights of staying up passed midnight to get every ounce of knowledge shoved into her head paid off, and now I had a giggily blonde practically leaning on me as we made our way to the Hokage monument to gaze at the sunset again and relax for the final several weeks of the term where I was now free to spend training my other techniques.

And that last part would benefit Naruko. She'd noted her interest with swords and more team building exercises with her clones, so I was going to indulge her and improve myself at that.

"I'm so happy I might die!" She squealed for what wasn't the first time in the last hour, taking another visible bite of the ice cream instead of licking it like a normal human would. "I can't be any happier, Sasuke."

I just snickered to myself, deciding to take a small bite of my own ice cream.

That turned to instant regret when something triggered in my mouth and I stifled a wince. I wouldn't be surprised if the temperature sensitivity I'd been having lately was caused by a cracked tooth from the explosion. That might be something I have one of the Hyuga techs at the hospital that manages x-rays check out, because I seriously didn't want to have to deal with an infected tooth. That root canal I remember from before was awful, so screw messing up on teeth stuff again.

"Whatcha thinkin about?" Naruko asked, her smile stained by the chocolate ice cream she was eating.

"Eh," I shrugged, deciding to be sort of honest, "I think one of my teeth is cracked, because the ice cream hurts this side of my mouth." I pointed at the right side of my face for emphasis.

"Oh." She frowned, looking downright sad at me saying that. "That sucks, can you fix it?"

"Definitely. Just need a iryo-nin to seal it shut.

"Okay that's good."

After that very brief exchange, I decided to go with my gut instinct and wrap my arm around the hyperactive blonde, pulling her close to me in an act that made her let out a squeak of surprise.

"Tomorrow, do you want me to show you how to use a sword?" I asked quietly, noticing a few strange glances from the civilians as we walked down the streets. They'd lost much of their hostility compared to before, mainly because they still pitied me and thought I was reaching out for a friend desperately, with Naruko being the only one I could find.

Idiots, and I called them that with a smile on my face.

Naruko, being the Naruko I knew and loved, let out a loud enough 'You bet, -ttebayo!' that my ears rang and she hugged me right in the middle of the street, and her partly melted ice cream cone smeared a streak across my temple.

Yeah, she was definitely interested.

I got her to let me go and I wiped the dessert off my temple and we kept walking towards the Hokage monument, finally reaching it just in time for the sunset.

And just like when I first went up here with her and marveled at how beautiful the sight of the setting sun was, I enjoyed it once again; a reprieve from tests, training, and other troublesome things.


If the last few hundred words or the final scene felt rushed or off, it's because I got sick… again, and I just needed to finish the scene. October has not been my month and I just want this chapter over with so I can pass out. Chapter's just shy of 7k words when it could've been 9k if not for this hell month.

Recap: Sasuke did things. Naruko did things. Stuff happens. More stuff happens. Ice cream.

I'm now going to take another vitamin c tablet, some cough syrup, and go back to sleep.