Chapter 2 - Theft from the Tower

"One... two..." Naruto flipped over the railing, landing as softly as he could. His legs protested against the strain as he slowly made his way over to the window; walking on tiptoe along the thin edge was difficult enough without the disadvantage of having received practically no physical training of note. Reaching the edge at last, he grasped it tightly and just held on for a few moments.

"This seemed way easier the first time around," He muttered to himself as he vaulted over the edge and into one of the longer hallways of the Hokage's tower, where ANBU would only patrol every ten minutes, instead of constantly. The genjutsu he'd put on himself should be sufficient to ward off unsuspecting eyes, but it was nowhere near enough to ward off any serious search, so he'd need to be quick and silent.

The walls were covered in scrolls – hundreds and hundreds of them. Of course, removing them was asking for serious trouble: the only reason he'd gotten away with it the first time was probably sheer luck. Still, he'd been a Genin, then; luck or not, he certainly had to be able to do better this time, considering his experience. Walking over to the back of the hallway, he quickly found the fūinjutsu scrolls – they were the best protected of all, aside from perhaps the forbidden scrolls, and if he didn't want to get caught like last time, he couldn't set off any alarms.

This wasn't the first time he'd gotten in here since he'd returned – the first day he'd taken the forbidden scroll, perusing it for the few techniques that he'd wanted to learn the first time around, but never did. He had them transcribed on one of his own scrolls, but getting around to learning those was of later concern. Circumventing that scroll's defences had almost been too easy; if he was successful again, today, he'd report the problem to the Hokage - and he'd get some kick-ass fūinjutsu scrolls that he hadn't read yet. Both were good.

"L, M... N! Right, here we go." Muttering under his breath, Naruto quickly scanned the slips attached to the scrolls, and identified a few interesting ones. They would probably be too difficult to follow – they usually were – but reading this particular handwriting had something special, and he really wanted to have something of the man. Namikaze Minato, the Yondaime Hokage – and his father. "Hope you don't mind, dad. It's for a good cause..."

He formed the all too familiar hand sign, and three shadow clones popped into existence next to him, each reflecting his own black attire and hood. Giving a single nod, each briefly studied the scrolls, and used Henge. Three duplicate fūinjutsu scrolls were left behind, and Naruto grinned victoriously as he picked up the first one.

"Now, I only have a short time..." Naruto mumbled, grabbing the first of his father's scrolls. He yanked it out and stuffed the shadow clone one back in the same slot, his heart racing as he waited for several long, drawn-out seconds. No alarm. No Hokage. He let out a sigh of relief, quickly stuffing the scroll behind his belt and grabbing the second shadow clone. Repeating the procedure twice more, three shadow clones now occupied the slots: by the time they dispelled, he'd be long gone.

"Mission complete," He said to himself as he hurried back to the window, leaping out and landing on the next building over in a crouch. It wasn't until several minutes had passed, and the tower wasn't alight with activity, that he allowed himself to relax.

The defences in the Hokage Tower definitely needed some work, then. Well – he'd get around to talking to the old man about that. But not until after he'd perused his new acquisitions.

High above him, looking down on the village from the roof of his Tower, Sarutobi Hiruzen looked after the departing boy. He puffed on his pipe, following him until he went out of sight. Then, he smiled.


"I'm here, Iruka-sensei!" Naruto stormed into Ichiraku's, jumping onto a stool and catching himself before he could topple over. He smiled brightly, running a hand through his mop of blond hair. "Sorry I'm late!"

"No problem, Naruto," Iruka said softly. "I hadn't started yet – wouldn't be right without you, would it? It's a celebration, after all."

Naruto nodded gleefully. "Finally, I'm a Konoha ninja! Now, nothing stands in my way to my ultimate goal!"

Iruka smiled as Teuchi arrived with two full bowls of Miso Ramen – Naruto attacked it like a voracious animal, loudly thanking the chef for making the 'food of the gods'. "Still the one-track mind, eh Naruto? Still intent on becoming the next Hokage?"

"Of course!" Naruto stopped eating for a moment to give Iruka an incredulous look. "What did you think, that I was just going to go back on my word when I got this hitai-ate? No way, someday you'll see that my face is on that cliff!" He pointed excitedly at the Hokage Monument. "The old man believes I can do it, so that's enough for me!"

Iruka sighed. "Still the disrespect for the Hokage, Naruto? That won't get you any closer to his position, you know."

"Eh, he doesn't mind." Naruto shrugged, emptying his bowl in one massive gulp, and quickly grabbing a second, which Teuchi had kindly already set aside for him. "I wonder what the teams will be, though... Do you know anything about that? I bet my team will be something lame, like Ino and Kiba."

"Even if I knew, you can find out with everyone else, tomorrow." Iruka tapped him on the head and gave a friendly smile. "Perhaps, if you train well enough, I'll call you by a title someday. No slacking off, though, or you won't ever get it. You'll need to put all your energy in important things."

"Right!" Naruto exclaimed, devouring a second bowl of ramen like it was nothing. "Protect the village like everyone in it is my family! Be a leader that people look up to because of respect and awe, rather than fear!" At Iruka's inquiring look, Naruto smirked. "The old man told me that."

"Well, the old man – I mean, the Hokage would know." Iruka sedately ate the rest of his bowl, as Naruto began his next, and then another one. "Hey, Naruto – I could give you a little hint that you might find useful for your first day as Genin." He smiled thinly, rubbing his nose. "What's the greatest tool a shinobi possesses?"

"Eh?"

"Think about it." Iruka said. "If you can figure it out before tomorrow, I'll be impressed!"

"I'll definitely figure it out!" Naruto declared. "The greatest tool? Kunai, maybe? Shuriken? How about ninja-wire, that's extremely useful... Wait, do jutsu count?"

"Tomorrow, Naruto." Iruka admonished. "I'll see you when you get assigned to a team. Don't stay up too late."

"I won't." Naruto gobbled up his last bowl of ramen, and stood up. "I'll definitely be on the best team, and then I'll make sure I'll be the best shinobi in it!" He looked down at his black clothes and frowned. "Definitely need some more orange, though. Can't go to the academy like it's a funeral..."

Iruka chuckled. "I think your new look is pretty nice – makes you look like a real shinobi."

"I am a real shinobi," Naruto quipped, tapping his hitai-ate. "Well, I'll see to some more orange anyway – without it, it's just not normal. Bye, Iruka-sensei!"

"Wait-" Iruka sighed as the boy leapt out of the ramen restaurant, his bright hair the last visible part of him as he disappeared into an alleyway across the street. Turning back to the bar, he gulped. Nine empty bowls of ramen were stacked up precariously – and nobody had paid for them. This was going to hurt, right in the wallet.


"Starting today, you are all ninja of the Hidden Leaf!" Iruka announced, pacing in front of the class. Sakura and Ino were muttering about their places, while Naruto looked on tiredly, plucking at his black-and-orange suit idly. It was close enough to the jumpsuit he'd received from Pervy Sage, during their training trip; with a smile he recalled his travels with Jiraiya of the Sannin; this time around, he intended to keep the man around for much, much longer. He'd considered ditching orange entirely – it'd be a pain to put on new clothes, every time he got sneaky – but he found that he couldn't. He just wasn't the same person without at least some of it.

Naruto yawned loudly. He'd spent most of his night reading the scrolls he'd pilfered, trying to get some idea of what they were even about, but they were a little beyond him. His fūinjutsu skills, however impressive compared to probably anyone else in the room, certainly weren't up the Fourth's level; not that he'd really expected them to be. Perhaps someday he'd be able to read those scrolls, and decipher what his own father had written. Naruto was torn out of his thoughts as Iruka stared sharply at him, and he forced himself to pay attention.

"You will follow your sensei's instructions, as you complete your assigned duties. We've tried to even out the teams, so that they're all about the same strength." Iruka smiled as several people called out in horror. "

After the first few teams, Naruto already saw what was going on – everything was exactly as it was last time; not a bit had changed in any of the teams. Well; not getting in the same team as Sasuke had probably been wishful thinking on his part.

"Next Team: Haruno Sakura, Uzumaki Naruto," Sakura groaned. "...and Uchiha Sasuke."

"Hell yes!" Sakura called out, punching the air in victory. Naruto looked over at his two teammates with a sigh, thoroughly unsurprised. Sasuke didn't spare him a glance, staring into space like he always did, and Sakura was making faces to Ino, who seemed inconsolable. Then she turned to Naruto, and grimaced. Well, this was going to be fun.

Iruka quickly rattled off the other teams, which were the same as always – figured. Finally he was done, and looked out over the class. "...Okay, this afternoon, we'll introduce the Jōnin-sensei. Before that, though – I have question. Consider it extra credit, if you wish."

"Extra credit, after we've graduated?" Shikamaru muttered. "Too bothersome. Wake me when he's done."

Iruka rolled his eyes. "This question is something that you must keep in mind. It's something you should consider when you meet your sensei. What is a shinobi's greatest tool?"

There was a brief silence, as several of the Genin muttered to each other. Naruto stared at Iruka, who glanced in his direction, smiling encouragingly. "Anyone care to make a guess?"

"...It has to be the kunai, they're the most used out of all the shinobi's tools," a girl offered; Naruto realized he actually didn't even know her name. All that vaguely came to mind was that she was one of the Genin that hadn't made it through the invasion at the Chūnin Exams. Something that, if he had anything to say about it, wouldn't happen again.

"That's wrong. Anyone else?"

"Uh... perhaps, chakra?" Hinata offered, cringing slightly. "It is... the most important for all ninja skills, isn't it?"

"A good guess; not many would consider naming chakra a tool. Unfortunately, it is wrong, again. Anyone else?" There was some shuffling of feet. "...Anyone?"

"The mind." Naruto said, barely audible. Iruka turned to him with eyebrows raised. Naruto shrugged, and spoke up. "The mind is the ultimate tool of the shinobi. Without it, all the jutsu and weapons would be pointless."

"Very good, Naruto." Several Genin stared at Naruto, and he fidgeted. Iruka coughed in his hand, tapping his hitai-ate. "The mind, the intellect. That is where we plan, where we process, where we feel. There are shinobi that do not use kunai – they are no less for it. There are shinobi who do not use chakra, or who can only use it in a very limited fashion, and yet they are no less for it. But, there is no shinobi of note, who doesn't use their mind. You'd better remember it."

Naruto smiled widely as Iruka sat back down, occasionally glancing at him with a look that he couldn't quite identify – perhaps pride. Whatever it was, even if he hadn't been acting like his younger self, he'd have been hard-pressed to get rid of his elation.

He had plans - plenty of them. He'd been thinking about what to do for the last few days, and his shadow clones were busy preparing a few of those ideas right now. One letter was on its way to Suna - he didn't know if it'd ever reach its target, but at least he'd try, before the Exams. One more letter was headed to Kumo, and he was pretty sure that one would arrive. It'd be interesting to see what the response would be. His last letter - well, he hadn't sent it yet, but he was considering it. Compared to the other two, the risk was far greater, so perhaps he'd simply hand it over in person. If things stayed anything like he remembered them, he'd get the chance.

Now, though, it was time to wait for his Jōnin-sensei. Considering his team was no different, that meant... Damn, this was going to take forever. He let out an annoyed ground slumped on his desk, hoping that something, anything he'd done, had made some impact on Kakashi's chronic tardiness.


"What're you reading, Dead Last?" Sasuke asked, nearly an hour after the other Genin had left – only team 7 remained behind.

Naruto looked up, blinking. "Oh, it's just a book I found... I thought with all the waiting, I might as well." He tapped it and smiled. "It's quite interesting, it has lots of information on all kinds of shinobi!"

"...Information on shinobi?" Sasuke repeated, frowning. "What exactly-"

"Hello there!" A man suddenly said at the door: Naruto smiled widely as he recognized the masked visage of Kakashi, one eye looking over his three students with interest. "My first impression... I don't like you." He gestured behind him. "Let's get to the roof."

Naruto sighed, following the man without complaint. At least, he reasoned, his choice of literature beat that of his sensei's. Sakura and Sasuke weren't far behind, looking at their new teacher uncertainly. It was actually sort of amazing, Naruto considered, how innocent they all really were, at this point.

"So..." Kakashi said as the four arrived at the roof; Naruto plopped down on the side, quickly turning the pages on his book, searching for a particular page. The teacher noticed, of course, and glanced over. "What are you doing there?"

"Ah, I thought I'd seen... Hah, here you are!" Naruto declared victoriously. "Hatake Kakashi, Copy-nin of Konoha! B-Rank Jōnin..." He frowned. "Man, you got old since this picture, sensei..."

"I haven't been a B-Rank in fifteen years," Kakashi said, blinking. "What's that book? A bingo book?"

"Yup, I found it in one of the training grounds!" Naruto said. He'd better not admit he'd taken it from Mizuki's house – not that the man would have much more use for the thing. "It's a really old one, I think, since it has all these cool shinobi that aren't around anymore!" He flipped the page, showing a picture of a much younger Kakashi, side-by-side with a boy that was unmistakably an Uchiha. "Hold on..."

"... I think we should begin introductions, now. You can read your book later." Kakashi admonished.

"No, this is cool – my favourite ninja of all is in here! Look, he even has a special warning, all for himself!" He turned the book to the others, smiling widely. A picture of the Fourth Hokage wielding one of his special kunai covered the entire page, labelled only 'Flee on Sight'. "Someday I'll be a Hokage too! Uzumaki Naruto, the fifth Hokage! I'll be just as cool as him!" He imitated the solemn pose that the Fourth had in his picture, and was gratified to note that Sasuke suddenly blanched, and Kakashi looked decidedly uncomfortable. Bingo. Step One in Getting Sasuke's Damn Attention: successful.

"Everyone knows about your silly goal to be a Hokage," Sakura muttered.

"There's nothing silly about such goals," Kakashi interrupted suddenly, frowning. "If he wants to be a Hokage – well, let him try. Who knows, he might surprise you." Naruto smiled radiantly at the praise. "Now, we really should get to introductions. I suppose Naruto already covered mine, and his own. Pinky?"

"Ah..." Sakura glanced at Sasuke, and blushed. "I'm Haruno Sakura. My goal is to be a great kunoichi, and..." She blushed even more. "Well..."

Kakashi nodded, sighing. "How about you, in the corner?"

"...I am Uchiha Sasuke. My goals... no, my ambitions, are the resurrection of my clan... and to kill a certain man."

Well, nothing had changed there. Naruto sighed. He had a lot of work to do.


"Well, Kakashi?"

"He's grown in an... interesting way, Hokage-sama," The silver-haired Jōnin replied. "He wasn't nearly as annoying as I'd anticipated from the stories – but then, I suppose those were probably coloured by his... burden."

"Naruto is a most interesting boy," the Hokage agreed. "Indeed, I hadn't really considered it until recently – until I caught him doing something he really shouldn't."

"Hmmm?"

The Hokage smiled, tapping his crystal ball. "I've been keeping an eye out, sometimes. A few days ago, out of the blue, Naruto decided to pay a night-time visit to the tower. He was quite sneaky about it – not even the ANBU spotted him."

"...That's pretty good, for an academy student."

The Hokage nodded. "Of course, he usually wears bright orange – he must've learned to be quite good at hiding, if he can manage it with that eyesore of a suit he had. I've noticed he's stopped wearing it since he became a Genin. I don't think it's a coincidence." The Hokage gestured at his scrolls. "Here I've stored all the most powerful and dangerous scrolls in my own library – not even Naruto can get at them. If he can sneak in and out of the tower itself, though, I think he's earned his spoils."

"Ah. You'll make the protections on the scrolls progressively better?" Kakashi guessed. "I recall that being a Jōnin-level assignment, though."

"Perhaps – but then, I think we might be underestimating Naruto's cunning, even now. Do you know which scrolls he took? Not more forbidden scrolls, after the first time – no, he got what he wanted from those, I think. He must've overheard someone about the contents of those... If there is anyone who can use the Kage Bunshin technique to its full potential it has to be him, Keep an eye on that, will you? Regardless, this time he went straight for a specific type of scroll. Fūinjutsu."

"The Sealing Arts?" Kakashi blinked, eyes widening. "Don't tell me..."

The Hokage smiled. "He's been borrowing one Namikaze Minato's notes. Nothing really dangerous, but definitely complex; enough to make me dizzy. If he's already trying to figure out those kind of techniques – who knows? Perhaps it does run in the family, after all."

"That would be interesting, wouldn't it?"

The Hokage shrugged. "When Jiraiya returns to town, I'll ask him to test the boy. He's bound to be here for the Chūnin Exams in a few months." His eyes hardened as he stared at the Jōnin-sensei. "You'll treat Naruto well, won't you, Kakashi? I know you have the last Uchiha on your team, too. No favouritism."

"As you say." Kakashi bowed, and left.

"Uzumaki Naruto – where have you been hiding your talent?" The Hokage muttered to himself as he shook his head in amusement. "Stealing from the Hokage Tower – only you would be so bold. Well... you, and Jiraiya."


Author's Note: Well, I got some nice PM's and reviews to chapter 1 in quite a short time, so I figured I could put up the second chapter today. Yes, I'm going with the traditional team 7 again - I think that an alternate take on what that could have been is interesting to explore, here, since in canon it's split up pretty quickly. It's not as if Naruto's made big enough changes that he'd be put in another team - and if anyone's good for training an assassin, it has to be Kakashi, who invented the assassination technique Chidori.

This fic won't be a bash-fest, so no excessive nonsense regarding Ino, Sakura, Sasuke or so on. Indeed, I have a tendency to make usually somewhat ineffective characters more badass; since Sakura is basically a non-entity in Torikaeru, she'll get to kick some ass here.

No pairing for now, though it won't be slash, obviously, if there's one at all.