A/N: Hellooooooo, all you wonderful people who probably think I dropped off the face of the planet. Actually, I kinda did drop of the face of the planet, so...yeah. But I'm better now. Ish. Sand writing, which is the important thing. So, for those of you who read author's notes, this is a rewrote of my fic Remembering the Future, I was reading through it, and while it wasn't bad, I didn't find it particularly great, either. So, this is a re-write. Under sa different title becasue the last one made no sense.
And I don't own Naruto. Otherwise, a lot of things would be different. Liek Danzo would have choked on his own spit by now. And Sasuke would eventually maybe drag his head out of his ass. Maybe. Possible just remove it half way.
Outside the Konoha Ninja Academy, a teeming hum of excited seven-year olds prevailed over the murmurs of their parents and the reassurances of the Academy Sensei. Recently enrolled students tripped over their too-big ninja sandals and their extra-long shinobi pants, then leapt back to their feet, determined not to be labeled a crybaby on their very first day of ninja academy. Greetings were called back and forth between those children who knew each other. Shyer children, mostly those who did not come from shinobi families, shrank against the walls and watched the more active children with varied mixtures of awe, jealousy, and fear.
Umino Iruka hummed as he slipped through the teaming crowds and stood next to his teaching assistant, Hyuuga Hinata. The Hyuuga heiress spared her old teacher and now shinobi partner a brief smile as she assured an anxious civilian couple—the Sougo family, Iruka recalled—that their son would be fine even with a less extensive education than those that most shinobi children would have.
The anxious couple finally stopped peppering Hinata with their questions, and turned to say goodbye to their son, Iruka noted that he was one of the wallflowers watching the more agile children with an expression of curiosity more than anything else.
"That's one who might actually make it through to the end of the Academy," Iruka whispered to Hinata."
She turned to him and smiled. "I thought so, too. We'll have to make sure he knows about the various dojo Tsunade-sama has had set up for the children who don't have a family style to learn."
Iruka's eyebrows shot up. "Don't we usually wait to recommend those to nine-years and up?"
"Nine years is going to be too late for this one. I've been using my Byakugan to check up on the physical health of all the students entering the academy. I figured it would be a good way for us to know how to teach proper nutrition and health care if we have an idea of how the students treat themselves in the first place."
"Isn't that an invasion of privacy?"
She snorted. "They're going to be shinobi eventually. If they get good enough, everybody will know everything there is to know about them anyway. May as well get them used to the concept now."
Not for the first time did Iruka marvel at the change Hinata had gone through after the disappearance of Uzumaki Naruto. On some levels, it wasn't that surprising. Naruto's unexplained absence had changed everyone, even the people who claimed to be indifferent to the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki. However, his disappearance had very nearly made Hinata's personality do an about face.
He winced as he remembered those first months of lack-of-Uzumaki. Hinata had snapped at everyone, even her cousin and little sister. She'd spent hours training until she collapsed and either Shino or Kiba would carry her back to the Hyuuga compound so Neji could sneak her in past her father. She'd been abrasive and cruel to people she'd looked up to before.
It had taken a loud, public lecture from Kiba, backed-up by the ever stoic Shino, to finally knock some sense into the girl. She had regained most of her kind demeanor and soft gestures, but her heart had hardened, and those who had known Hinata well before what was politely referred to as "the disaster" could see the thinly-veiled cynicism that was now ever-present in her eyes.
Most of the time, Iruka could ignore Hinata's anger, because it wasn't directed toward him, and she really was incredibly kind for a kunoichi anyway. Even Kurenai was more aloof than genuinely courteous.
So instead of scolding Hinata for her irreverence towards the life of a shinobi in front of a bunch of starry-eyed kids, Iruka merely sighed and tugged on the long braid Hinata now wore, noting with relief that she had elected not to weave her usual spiky strap in amongst the intricate crossings of hair and silk bandages. He didn't think his nerves would be able to handle it if a kid tried to pull the teacher's hair and instead ended up in the hospital.
"So you were eyeballing their innards to make sure we'd know how to keep our students healthy," he prompted. What did you see that made you think the Sougo kid shouldn't wait until he's nine? Most seven-year olds can't handle the stress that dojo training inflicts on their bones."
Hinata, who had been eying Iruka with some suspicion during his brief reminiscence, relaxed a little. "He's been trying to train by himself. With swords."
Iruka's yelp caused a shocked silence. And he resisted the urge to bang his head against a wall as he realized just how long it was going to take to undo the first impression he'd just given to his students.
"Yes." Hinata nodded her head solemnly, clearly taking advantage of Iruka's lapse in control to establish her role as the calming presence in the room. Iruka resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at her. "So, he's more likely to get hurt if he keeps trying on his own. Plus, he has naturally dense bones. I wouldn't be surprised if he had some samurai ancestry in his blood."
"Ah." Iruka focused his attention on Hinata. It wouldn't do to be distracted by the kids now snickering at his red face. "Any other anomalies I should know about."
"I'm glad you asked, Iruka-san." Hinata smiled and moved so she was directing his gaze. "There's a couple of girls there, you see? That's Aburame Azelle and Inuzuka Hikari. Shino's and Kiba's cousins. Azelle's relationship with her kikkai is not as simple a matter as the symbiotic relationship most Aburame share with their kikkai. She's actually friends with them. The Inuzuka clan's influence, I'd imagine. And Hikari has better chakra control than should be expected. It looks like her nin-pup is helping her regulate it, which is not how the usual relationship between an Inuzuka and his or her partner usually is."
"It's more like an Aburame's relationship with his kikkai." Iruka marveled. "That's…interesting. What else?"
Hinata made a slight gesture to the left. "The strawberry-blonde over there. The one sitting on the wall? He's a little malnourished. I heard his clan is a wandering one and they left him here so he could become a ninja, so that might explain it, but he also has a high number of broken and perfectly healed bones."
"So they had a good healer." Iruka shrugged.
"Only a healer on Tsunade's caliber can heal that well, and I don't think even she can heal that many breaks perfectly. It's probably a mixture of an abusive family member and a kekkei genkai."
Iruka let out a low whistle. "Not a jinchuuriki then?"
"No. It's just his chakra in there. It has an odd pattern. More water-like than most. But he might just be extremely predisposed towards water jutsu. There are some clans that have such a history of elemental jutsu that their children develop a predisposition for a chakra element more quickly than others."
"Kami. This is going to be a difficult class to focus."
Hinata nodded. "This might be a good time to petition to Tsunade-sama to see how well students learn if they keep the same teachers throughout their years in academy instead of switching. It won't do to get used to them just in time to hand them off to someone else.
"We've got Kurenai's kid."
"Isn't that a little early?"
"He's precocious, Shikamaru mentioned. He and Kurenai decided that it would be better to just enroll him a couple years early than let him run amok for another two years."
"Lovely," Iruka reconsidered his decision against banging his head against a wall. "Shall we get them started then?"
Thirty students sat in their seats, impatient eyes fixed on the two adults standing in front of them. Their only indications of boredom were occasional rustles of fabric, the tapping of a finger or two against the scarred wood of age-old desks, and the occasional, hastily stifled yawn. Most of the children seemed intent on catching Iruka embarrassing himself again.
Iruka sighed: if only their attentiveness would last through the next five years! He squared his shoulders and began his first lecture.
"Hello. My name is Umino Iruka, and you will refer to me as Iruka-sensei. My father was Umino-sensei, and I am not, nor would I ever presume to be, my own sensei. My teaching assistant is Hyuuga Hinata—Hinata-sensei."
Already the class's attention was beginning to wander. He wondered if he should scare them into paying attention, or save his scare tactics until the next year. He decided to wait—they were only seven, and Hinata had seemed a little bloodthirsty this morning. Better not encourage her.
"Throughout the year, you will be learning the theories behind being a ninja. You will learn our most important tools, how to use them, and when to use them. You will learn the difference between Taijutsu, Genjutsu, and Ninjutsu. If you continue into next year, you will learn how to put the theories you have learned into practice."
Half of the class groaned that they had wanted to start the cool stuff right away, and Iruka frowned. He would have to nip that kind of thinking in the bud. Ninjas concerned with being "cool" got their teammates killed.
"As the years go on, your classes will get harder. You will learn more, read more, write more, train more. You will want to sleep more, but you will not have the time to do so. This strenuous schedule will prepare you for your graduation and entrance into the world of real ninjas. If you think you won't be able keep up, or if you just don't want to try, you should just give up now. Because, believe me, it might be 'cool' to pull off a perfect roundhouse kick, but it most certainly is not 'cool' to die because you put more effort into thinking about the perfect heroic entrance than studying the five points of ambush."
That had done the trick. A couple students looked nervous at the prospect of so much work. A boy in the back had such an annoyed look at the concept of work that he could pass as a Nara. Several others looked as if the prospect of a job with a high mortality rate had only just seemed to lose its shine. The rest of the students looked indignant at the thought of giving up. They'd show Iruka they had what it took even if it killed them!
"Future kunoichi will also learn how to act like a civilian woman. You boys will spend time learning a trade. We used to take the extra time given to boys to start them on their taijutsu, but Hokage-sama and her apprentice, Haruno Sakura, has pointed out that this type of thinking could ruin kunoichi by making them think their strength is inferior to that of shinobi. Girls who think like that tend to act like damsels-in-distress. It's a dangerous tendency that gets both genders killed."
He looked around at the now sober faces. "Any questions?"
The class looked back at him with huge eyes, no doubt just beginning to realize that shinobi actually did die. Finally, a tiny boy with lurid turquoise hair raised a hand.
"Ano, Iruka-sensei? What's 'strenuous' mean?"
Hinata stepped forward before Iruka really did smash his head into his desk. Her clear, soft voice commanded the attention of everyone in the room.
She smiled at the blue haired boy. "Shishi-san, isn't it?" He nodded, and she continued. "What Iruka-sensei meant when he used the word 'strenuous' was that you would all be pushing yourselves to the brink of exhaustion voluntarily. You will have a busy schedule with barely any free time, and it is this hard work that will allow you to become the superior ninjas I know you have the potential to become."
Iruka stepped forward, composed once more. "Thank you, Hinata. Our first lesson is on the most important ninja tool you can and will use. Deception. Can anyone tell me what deception means?"
"Why?" piped up a redheaded girl seated near the back. Iruka checked his roster and decided that she must be Zii Dia, a girl from a family of ninja smiths. "Don't you know? You're supposed to be the teacher."
Laughter erupted at her words, and Iruka saw the Shishi boy throw an appreciative glance over his shoulder.
"I do know what it means. What I want to know is if anyone else is blessed with even a fifth of my vocabulary or if I also need to add that subject to our growing list of things-to study."
The laughter cut off nearly as quickly as it had begun. Slowly, a younger boy with dark brown eyes and curly black hair raised his hand. Kurenai's son.
"Deception," he began when Iruka signaled for him to speak, "is a way of tricking people into seeing you in a false light. You make them underestimate you, and then you strike in a way they never believed you could do."
"Good," smiled Iruka. "Now, you are all going to introduce yourselves. Tell us some true things and some that are false. Make sure that you will be able to trick even people who know you. At the end of the week, you will reveal what part of your introduction was true and what was false. I will tell you how you could have improved your act, and how you could have spotted someone else's lie. We will do this exercise one a month, and your grade will be dependent on how well you maintain the façade, how quickly you see through someone else's, and how you incorporate my advice."
He looked around. "You have five minutes to construct your personality. Be grateful. You'd be lucky to get five seconds from and enemy. Begin."
His ears were met by the furiously scratching pencils of thirty over-eager students. He'd have to break them of the need to write everything down.
Hinata leaned over to Iruka and whispered in his ear. "You should probably know that Shishi Ryuu has a bottle of glue in one pocket and a bag of feathers in another. That Zii girl has also been eyeballing the kid in front of her with brown hair. I'm not sure if she has a crush or if he's pissed her off."
Iruka looked over to the glare and found himself looking at a boy named Abino Triyuu, one of the few students who didn't seem to think that chewing the end of his pencil would help him think. Second-generation ninja, if he remembered correctly. His father had been killed in an ambush-gone-wrong just a few months ago, but Abino Trano had been a bit of a jackass anyway.
"Eh," said Iruka. "If he can't handle her, he doesn't deserve to be here."
Hinata snorted, then checked her watch. "Time's up!"
"And half of you fail," Iruka added. "Half of deception is about not letting the person you're trying to fool get wind that you might be fooling him. If you must write the trick down, at least do yourself the favor of covering said paper. It's not cheating if it might save your life."
Groans echoed throughout the classroom, and Iruka caught a glimpse of a sadistic smirk on Hinata's face.
"They actually had to write it down?" Kiba snickered into his sake. "Like, write it down?"
Hinata would have rolled her eyes, but she was too busy downing a shot Ino had bought her. "Yes, Kiba, for the hundredth time, they are silly little creatures with no short-term memory. They wrote their deceptions down."
"Stupid little buggers," Shikamaru groaned. "Even Asuma?"
"He knew enough to cover his answers," Hinata said helpfully. "He didn't cover them right, but it's the thought that counts."
Ino choked and ordered another shot. "Brats."
Hinata grimaced and nodded. "Hikari wrote hers in some kind of code, so we didn't fail her, even though Azelle was sitting right next to her and writing in the same code."
Shino let his head drop to the table with a loud thunk as Kiba's snickers turned into full-fledged guffaws.
"Is he already smashed or just really disappointed?" Sakura looked genuinely curious.
"Dunno," Kiba muttered. "I haven't really been watching."
"I'm fine," Shino grumbled. "Idiot."
"Anything else?" Kiba sounded so hopeful that Hinata decided to answer.
"Yeah. One of the kids, Shishi Ryuu, decided he liked Zii Dia, who has some weird kind of grudge against one of the better students: Abino Triyuu. They came back from lunch, and Abino had feathers glued all over him."
"Feathers," howled Kiba. "That's classic! I love that kid already."
"I'll bet you do," grumbled Ino.
"Could you tone it down a little?" Shikamaru seemed ready to bite out the word 'troublesome,' but reconsidered when he remembered just how many syllables there were in the word to mess up.
Sakura's smile was a little dim. "It sounds like something Naruto would have done."
Kiba's chuckles died. Shikamaru's head jerked back up. Ino dropped her next shot of…whatever it was.
"Yeah," Hinata mumbled. "That's what I thought."
"My kikkai reported a strange surge of chakra over near Suna." Shino's voice was almost more than a monotone.
"It felt familiar. Danzo didn't let Tsunade-sama appoint a mission to check it out. He said it's been over two years now. If he hasn't shown up, he's not coming back."
"Bastard," growled Sakura. "What would he know?"
They whipped around as one, and relaxed simultaneously when Kakashi raised his hands and flapped them in their direction. "I just happened to overhear my cute subordinate and her friends talking about Danzo-sama. I wanted to remind them that he has friends everywhere, so it would maybe be good if they were a little quieter."
"Right." Sakura forced a smile. "Thanks Kakashi-sensei."
He cocked his head to one side and smiled. "Of course."
They watched him wander back over to Ibiki and Gai, snagging a bottle of sake from an indignant Anko.
"Fuck." Ino seemed to think that phrase summed it up and turned back to her drink.
They sat in silence for a bit, and then Kiba leaned over and nudged Hinata. "So do any of those perverted little kids have a crush on our Hinata-chan?" He leered. "You do have just the right shape to—OW! Dammit, Shino! That hurt!"
Far away from Konoha, near Suna, several shadows moved around a cloaked statue. A faintly menacing chakra leaked from underneath the cloth, and the figures nearer to the chakra flinched slightly.
Another figure lay on the ground, twitching slightly, and letting out a low groan.
One of the shadows detached itself from it group and moved over to the prone man. A pale hand was placed on a tan, sweaty forehead.
"He's still alive."
"Damn!" One of the other shadows cursed. "What do we do now?"
"Seal him into the statue, too," shrugged another. "It's not like we owe him anything.
"Right." The crouching figure stood and wiped his hand on his cloak. "Pick up you formation again. I want this business done with tonight."
A/N: Hello, you delightful readers! There's a loverly little button down here that you can click on to tell me how awesome or mediocre I am. Those of you who have read the original of this story know how happy I am to get reviews. You other readers, please, make a writer's day. It's a lot easier than hugging a polar bear. A lot less perilous to your health, too.