Hiruzen Sarutobi was a man who rarely lost his temper. He kept it hidden, boiling and brewing within until he needed it. It was how he led Konoha through three Shinobi World Wars. Any who met the God of Shinobi were met with a calm countenance and a grandfatherly demeanor.

It was something he valued.

But as he sat in his office–a mountain of paperwork awaiting his attention–he couldn't help the frustration he felt when he gazed upon his predecessor, Minato Namikaze. Hiruzen was supposed to finally be allowed to rest, to finally pass on the hat and be assured the village would be protected.

Minato was someone he respected highly. Coming from humble origins, the boy had no equal. To this day, no one had been able to beat his academy scores–not even Itachi Uchiha.

Hiruzen had no doubt Konoha's Yellow Flash had enough potential to even someday surpass Tobirama Senju (even he couldn't delude himself into thinking anyone could surpass Hashirama).

But he had to get himself killed, forcing him to forgo his retirement. He had to go and get Kushina pregnant at the worst possible time. Hiruzen warned him about the risk, imploring to wait until the village had recovered. There were too many risks of the sealing breaking. The boy had disregarded every possibility of him failing to contain the kyuubi. And he got himself killed!

Hiruzen closed his eyes and calmed himself. He couldn't startle his Anbu by letting his chakra get out of control.

But what frustrated him most of all was why didn't Minato come to him? After Biwako's death, Hiruzen would've been more than willing to sacrifice himself for the village. So why? Why did Minato feel possessed to throw his life away?

He sighed. No use dwelling on the past. He looked towards the paperwork he had to complete soon and inwardly groaned.

Distraction. He needed a distraction. A walk? No. If he chose to walk through the village now, he wouldn't be able to justify one later. Looking through his office, Hiruzen's eyes found his crystal ball. Setting it in front of him, he wondered who he should check up on.

Naruto was the first one who came to his mind. A fond smile appeared on his face. Today would be his first day in the academy, wouldn't it?

The boy would appreciate his surrogate grandfather treating him to Ichiraku's after such a momentous day.

Yes, that was a perfect idea.

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Naruto Uzumaki couldn't describe how happy he was. Today was his first day in the academy!

He'd been hearing about it so much from the older boys about how wonderful it was and it being the only way to become a shinobi. He didn't know too much about ninja except that the old man was the strongest one alive. He had to be if he was Hokage. Naruto admired the man who, without fault, visited him every week, and he would always treat him to Ichiraku's Ramen and indulge any request Naruto had.

Naruto wanted to be just like him, so going to the academy was a no brainer. Not even the stares from the villagers had been able to hamper his enthusiasm.

He was currently in his classroom waiting for his sensei. He took the moment to observe his classmates.

Shikamaru and Choji, two boys who occasionally were willing to let him join their group at the playground, were–expectedly–just lounging around. Choji absentmindedly chewed on a bag of chips, while Shikamaru attempted to fall asleep.

Ino and Sakura were arguing over something unimportant. Naruto couldn't help but feel a stab of pain when he saw Sakura. They used to be friends before her parents had found out. After that, she had wanted nothing to do with him. If he wasn't used to it, it would've broken him. He had a crush on her ever since he saw her.

Naruto's eyes then fell on Sasuke Uchiha. The first time he saw him around the village he didn't think much of him.

Until he saw how the villagers looked at the Uchiha. Those stares that Naruto had nightmares about, that he dreaded seeing. He hated even leaving his house because he knew the stares would follow him. They would bore into him and make him feel horrible for just existing.

And for the first time in his life they were fixated on someone else. The villagers looked at Sasuke with as much contempt as they looked at him. Naruto felt horrible about it, but he almost cried tears of joy when he saw that.

He'd almost went up to Sasuke to introduce himself, but he stopped himself when he caught a glimpse of the boy's eyes. They were filled with so much coldness that it gave him pause. It scared him a little.

Naruto looked at the villagers and found them staring at him again. He fled.

Later, he felt terrible shame. Sasuke was able to ignore the villagers and go about his day without a care while Naruto couldn't help but run. He wanted to be as strong as him and so he practiced. Every day for months, he'd be in front of his mirror until his eyes didn't show any emotion. Naruto couldn't replicate the coldness he felt from Sasuke, but he made sure to always wear a blank mask.

Inwardly he allowed himself to be the child he was, but when he went outside to face those stares, he made sure they didn't see how much they affected him.

Ever since, Naruto had been wanting to properly introduce himself to Sasuke. To thank him for showing him how to deal with the villagers, and to become his friend. No one's eyes should look like Sasuke. He had originally thought it was a facade, one crafted far more carefully than his.

He learned otherwise when he researched the Uchiha clan. The library was like a second home to Naruto. Kids rarely hung out with him, so he didn't have much to do. He spent most of his time reading all assortments of literature.

But he decided to look up Sasuke. He wanted to see if he could find out why the villagers disliked him.

What he had found horrified him. Sasuke's older brother Itachi had massacred their entire clan except him. The Uchiha clan were never well liked–they were even suspected of having a hand in the kyuubi attack–but after the massacre, their reputation plummeted. People were scared Sasuke would snap just like his brother.

Ever since, Naruto's vigor to befriend Sasuke increased, but he could never find him around the village again.

Naruto smiled. They were now classmates. The two could–

His thoughts were interrupted when the door opened and a voice yelled for attention.

"Quiet! Enough of the raucous. We have a lot to do today and we don't have the time."

Two chuunin–Naruto was pretty sure that was their rank–stood in front of the class. The one who spoke had brown hair and a noticeable scar below his eyes. The other had bright blue hair and wore a pleasant smile on his face.

Brown hair continued speaking, "My name is Iruka Umino and this is Mizuki. We'll be your sensei until you all graduate."

The two bowed deeply then straightened.

"Alright, we're going to start off by getting introductions underway. Commencing after that will be a history lesson on how Konoha was founded. Near the end of the day, we'll be testing your taijutsu. You shouldn't know any nin or genjutsu, so tough luck to those of you who were looking forward to it. Let's get started. Adachi Abiki?"

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Naruto knew if anyone was looking at him closely they'd see a boy who was trying his best not to fidget. He couldn't help it when he was watching his classmates fight each with far more skill and grace than he could ever hope to achieve.

It didn't help that only the civilian born kids were losing. If Naruto was cynical, he'd suspect his two sensei had paired each other this way for precisely this reason. Nevertheless, all his enthusiasm coming into this had died.

Especially when he saw one of his classmates, Kiba, kick Sakura in the face, knocking her out in one move. She was sent to the medics, and Kiba was rebuked for his brutality, but the smug expression never fell off his face.

Eventually Naruto was called. When he heard who his opponent was, he didn't know what to feel.

"Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha! You two are up," said Mizuki.

Naruto settled for wary apprehension.

He walked up to the platform with heavy steps. Sasuke's was markedly different from his. He was calm and collected, confidence practically oozing out of him.

The two faced each other. Their sensei waited a few seconds then shouted for them to begin.

Sasuke struck first, running up to him with speed he struggled to follow and landing a punch that connected solidly on his stomach. Naruto did his best to fight through the pain to grab Sasuke's arm and kick him, but Sasuke danced out of the way. He went into a stance and watched him.

Naruto growled and ran to Sasuke, intent on continuing his earlier move. He saw a flash of something that looked like disappointment in Sasuke's eyes before his leg was casually blocked and the other was kicked, causing him to fall on his back. Before Naruto could even think about moving, Sasuke had his foot on his throat. The threat of applying pressure stopped Naruto.

Mizuki interrupted before he thought of a solution to escape. "Match over! Sasuke's the winner!" Cheering followed his announcement.

The foot disappeared. Naruto got up slowly, composing himself so no one could see the shame that suffused his being. Before he walked away, Mizuki coughed. Naruto turned to him.

"The Seal of Reconciliation, Naruto." Mizuki gestured towards his opponent. Naruto blinked. Sasuke was holding out the Seal, patiently waiting for him. He could see amusement in his eyes and a flickering of a smile across his face. Naruto openly returned his own and held out his own Seal. The two clasped them.

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Everyone was back in the classroom waiting for the sensei to release them. Half the class wore despondent expressions on their faces, devastated by their defeat.

The other half…

Well, Naruto tried not to look too much at them. He couldn't bear to watch them revel in their victory. Not while he sat there, being an utter failure. He was so excited for the academy, but how could he contend with clan kids who'd been training for years? They were above him now and would continue to be for the rest of the academy. How could they not be? They'd learn everything he was learning at the same pace as him. Coupled with their early advantage and it was a doomed affair.

Naruto's thoughts were interrupted by Iruka calling for their attention.

Iruka graced them with an understanding smile. "I realize today might've been a disappointment for most of you. You were so excited to begin learning here only to be met with a brutal awakening. Realize that it won't always be like this. For me, when I started the academy, I was worried I was never going to match kids from clans. I thought I was going to be dead last forever." Iruka's smile grew bigger and his chest puffed up with pride. "A few months later, I was rivaling those same clan kids. If you think the academy is just going to allow you to fall behind, you're sorely mistaken."

Naruto couldn't help but smile alongside him now.

"If you put in the work, you have just as much of a chance of becoming the top of the year as anyone else. And for those of you dedicated enough, I have a tip for you…"

They all hung on Iruka's words. The suspense was killing them.

"The Academy section in the library–" Cue the groaning. Iruka sweat dropped but continued, "–is available to all of you now. There, you'll be able to find endless amounts of scrolls on ninjutsu, taijutsu, and genjutsu. There's a plethora of useful things there. If you take advantage of it, you'll go far here in the academy."

Naruto could tell most of his classmates were disappointed. None of them were interested in reading. To them, studying was nothing more than a chore. No doubt most of the civilian born kids would take the chance that they could get by on only learning through their lessons.

The only one who was different was Sakura. She looked practically giddy at the thought of all that knowledge at her fingertips.

Naruto was exactly the same. He already spent most of his time in the library. Exclusively going through the academy section was something he was looking forward to.

Naruto took a risk and sent Iruka a grateful look, hoping he'd notice. Naruto half expected–but dreaded–to receive a grimace or a look of contempt. Instead, his sensei seemed surprised and sent back a nod.

Naruto couldn't help but smile slightly. Maybe his time at the academy wouldn't be so bad.

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Naruto walked through the library, intent on asking the librarian where the academy section was. There was a time he couldn't help but be marveled by the sight of Konoha's premier library. It was one of the village's biggest buildings constructed. He heard one of the regulars say it was because the library contained every jutsu scroll Konoha acquired since its founding.

After years of exploring he knew the public section of the library like the back of his hand. If he looked to the left, he would be faced with the kid's section, containing fantasy books, lullabies, and everything in between; it was where he spent most of his time here. To the right was the history section–which contained the history of the Elemental Nations and every bit of knowledge Konoha had of Kage throughout time. He definitely was going to brush up on some of the scrolls in the coming weeks.

He stopped his musing when he reached the front desk. An old woman met his gaze. When he originally came here, he almost ran when he saw that she held the same contempt for him as the other villagers. Thankfully, he had mustered up the courage to stay.

The old man had recommended he come here and he wasn't going to be frightened away when he had every right to be there.

Thankfully she had left him well enough alone, and, unbeknownst to him for the longest time, she had actually grown respect for him when she saw him come here day after day, grabbing a book and keeping to himself.

Now the two were fond of each, though the old lady tried her darndest not to show it. Much to his pleasure, she always failed .

He smiled. "Hey, Baa-chan. Iruka-sensei said I can access the ninja section now that I started the academy."

She gave him a brief smile before it died a bloody death. A severe look replaced it. "Now, Naruto-kun, you wouldn't be happening to lie to me, would you? I was given the academy roster last week and your name was not on it…"

Naruto blinked rapidly in surprise. "What! Baa-chan, no, I just started today, I swear! You have to check again, please. I really wanted–"

She raised her hand to interrupt, her smile reforming. "I know Naruto-kun. I was joking. You couldn't believe my happiness when I saw your name there."

Naruto smiled back at her, gratitude twinkling in his eyes for the praise. A second later, she handed him a card with his name on it.

"Now, be careful with that. It takes a while to make new library cards. With it, though, you'll be able to go through that door–" She pointed to an inconspicuous door located at the other side of the library. Huh. He never thought much of it before. "–which is where the academy section is. Try not to spend too much time there, Naruto-kun. I just know you haven't had dinner yet and that is the most import–"

Turning to leave before she continued her nagging, Naruto waved goodbye. "I'll make sure to eat soon, Baa-chan. Thanks for your help! See ya' tomorrow."

When Naruto opened the door she had pointed to, he was met with a mirror image of the public section, only it was somehow even bigger. He hurried to the nearest bookshelf and went through a few of the scrolls.

He couldn't help but laugh in joy when he was met with endless amounts of taijutsu styles and ninjutsu scrolls. A bit further ahead was a plethora of scrolls about ninja tools-or bukijutsu, as some of the scrolls referred to the discipline as.

If anyone saw him then they'd think he was mad. He had no doubt his eyes were twinkling rapidly with delight.

This was going to be fun.

When Naruto went home that night and was met with party banners strewn about his living room with the words, "Congratulations on your first day!" he was almost worried he was going to die from laughing so much.

He gave the old man the biggest bear hug he could manage.

The two spent the rest of the time talking about their day and enjoying each other's presence.

Today was a good day.

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One year later the academy held its next taijutsu examination. In that time, Naruto had practically become unrecognizable. He had spent every opportunity he had training. It became addicting to Naruto, watching himself become stronger every day. If you couldn't find him in the library, there was no doubt he was in the academy training grounds, breaking past every limit he had.

He had devoured every scroll he could get his hands on. Taijutsu, ninjutsu, genjutsu, and even bukijutsu–becoming one of the best at throwing shuriken and kunai had practically guaranteed Iruka's respect. Though he tried to hide it to remain fair to everyone, the man loved seeing civilian born kids showing up clan heirs.

One thing Naruto lamented on, however, was that the scrolls never went deep enough. The logic behind it was that the academy was there to teach its students the basics. To create a foundation for the jounin to mold their apprentices into their preferred style of fighting.

Though Naruto hadn't reached it yet, he knew there was eventually going to be a point where he couldn't learn any more from the library. He just had to hope it would last at least a couple years more. After that, he could ask the old man for help.

Imagine Naruto's surprise when he learned the eccentric Hokage he affectionately called old man was known as the God of Shinobi throughout the Elemental Nations. He was feared for his unparalleled strength and intellect, and was even rumored to be on the level of the first Hokage.

But the moniker The Professor was something that interested Naruto even more. The old man was said to have learned every non-bloodline technique known to Konoha. When Naruto read everything useful in the academy library, he was going to ask him for guidance. The old man was no doubt too busy to personally teach him anything, but showing him where to go, or even giving him access to the genin section? It would be invaluable. Naruto could barely wait.

"Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha, please come up!"

Naruto inwardly grinned like a Chesire cat. He didn't expect for their rematch to happen so soon. Everyone else fought different opponents but the two of them. Maybe Iruka was looking out for him?

While heading for the platform, he looked to his sensei. The smile Iruka sent him confirmed it. Naruto sent one back. He originally had reservations about him, but the man proved himself to be someone who treated everyone like his children. He was even an invaluable source of knowledge for Naruto. Whenever he couldn't understand anything, Iruka made sure to go over it with him until it clicked. He had earned Naruto's undying respect.

Having reached the platform, Naruto examined his opponent. Sasuke didn't show any outward emotion, but you could see flashes of interest in his eyes if you knew how to look for it. Sasuke was someone who kept to himself, but when there was a chance for competition, he couldn't help but get excited for it. His drive to test himself was practically palpable.

Naruto would give him that test, that challenge. But he'd go even further than that and beat Sasuke. He had surprises in store for the Uchiha.

He wouldn't lose in seconds like last time.

When Naruto heard the shout to begin, he didn't go charging headlong. Instead, the two got into their stances and observed each other. Maybe Sasuke had sensed how much he had changed and was wary.

Good. He had every right to be.

When Naruto didn't see any holes in his opponent's stance, he decided to make one. He kicked off, striking hard and fast. Sasuke blocked the first punch, but the next three struck true. He grimaced and tried to counter attack, but Naruto wasn't having it. He had the advantage off the gate and it was imperative he maintain it. Naruto would narrowly dodge or block any of Sasuke's strikes, all the while bombarding him with attacks coming from unpredictable angles.

Sasuke was calm and collected throughout the onslaught, trying his best to weather through the blows until he could turn the fight around.

That was before he was sucker punched in the face. He promptly stopped worrying about defense.

The two were in a world of their own. Uncaring of any outside influence, they maintained a graceless dance.

Naruto would land an attack and then be rewarded with two hits on himself. On and on the fight continued this way. Eventually realizing he was going to lose if this continued, Naruto grabbed his opponent's shirt. Sasuke snorted and tried pulling away–only to find that he couldn't. Naruto's hand was completely attached to the fabric.

This was one of the taijutsu styles he had learned. It used a combination of grappling techniques and chakra to stick onto your foes.

Taking advantage of the grip he had, he tackled Sasuke onto the floor. What followed was an onset of blows directed towards Sasuke's unguarded body. Sasuke tried his best to block the blows but to no avail. If Naruto wasn't able to attack his face, he went for his ribcage. No ribcage? That was fine–his foe had a perfectly fine nose he enjoyed pummeling.

It was unfortunate that Sasuke eventually discovered the weakness of the taijutsu style. Using chakra, Naruto could glue himself to his opponent like a ninja did to trees. But his opponent could disrupt his chakra control by releasing their chakra outside their body.

When Sasuke released his grip, he kicked Naruto solidly away from him. Naruto twisted his body to land on his feet. He hurried to continue his advantage, but he was too late.

When Sasuke activated his clan's infamous doujutsu, Naruto knew the time where he dominated the fight was over. Where once his attacks were unpredictable and indomitable, Sasuke's eyes followed every movement. He dodged, blocked, or gracefully twisted out of every blow, all the while carefully landing hits that were positioned in the perfect spot. They did more damage than anything Naruto could produce.

Naruto inwardly groaned. He needed to turn this around soon or else.

"Naruto! Sasuke! The match has gone over time. It's been declared a draw!" bellowed Mizuki. Naruto and Sasuke turned towards their sensei, the two wearing furious expressions.

It was Sasuke that spoke–or, more accurately, hissed first, "Mizuki-sensei, we just got started. Why are you ending it now?"

Mizuku looked confusedly at them. "Just got started? The two of you have been at this for ten minutes. Matches are supposed to last for only five. I've given the two of you more breaks than anyone else. Some of your classmates haven't fought yet, and if I let this continue, they won't get to."

Sasuke growled and turned to Naruto. "Fine. Meet me after school, Naruto. You and I will continue this later." Without giving him any opportunity to respond, Sasuke walked back to his place in the crowd.

Naruto felt no offense, however. That was exactly what he wanted. He was just as eager as Sasuke to resume their fight.

And that was how Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha started off their friendship.

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Authors Note:

Color me surprised when I found out that Konoha didn't treat Sasuke as the "Uchiha elite". It's one of the reasons why Naruto in canon felt close to Sasuke. The two have a quite a few similarities in their childhood.

We'll be moving on to Team Seven and the bell test next chapter. It's a shame that Part 1 of Naruto is pretty rigid in terms of potential plot. There's not a whole lot you can change if you're not going to turn canon upside down. Of course, I'm going to try. I have no interest in retelling canon.

Dialogue and fight scenes are two areas I'm hoping to improve on, so if you could give me feedback, I would appreciate it. This is my very first fanfic and my first serious foray into writing.

If you enjoyed this, I would be beyond grateful if you could also review. Next chapter should be out soon.