The Last Prayer @graefoxx
02The Kami Awful Plan

Hello everyone. Please Enjoy.

NARUTO

It didn't take long for Naruto to utilize his clones in his training. He was repeatedly knocked flat on his back by them, however, since he would spar with no less than three clones at a time. It was impossible to fight off an uncoordinated taijutsu attack by three clones no matter how little technique and strategy they used, so he hit the floor often, but Naruto didn't have it in him to give up here—not with so much on the line. He hadn't made any progress all afternoon, as all three clones looked down on him relatively clean and amused. It annoyed him but he wouldn't have it any other way.

It was the Voice—Naru-nii for lack of a better name—that helped finally knock one of his clones on their back. Facing off against the clone in front of him, doing his best to match, block, or parry strikes, but leaving his back wide open to attack, he hears a, 'hey,' that seemed to be behind him. Naruto blocks the clone in front with a tense forearm, while sending a blind kick behind him. At the solid contact, Naruto counters the clone in front of him in a grapple before dispersing all three clones.

"Naru-nii?" Naruto calls out slightly out of breath to his surroundings, before recalling that the Voice is in his head. Still, to the energetic blond, it feels far more normal talking aloud than it does thinking conversation between himself and his future self. "You back?"

'Haha, Naru-nii, huh?' the voice in his head laughs. Now that Naruto hears it, the Voice's voice does ring fairly close to his own. It's deeper, more mature, yet with a hint of playfulness. 'So I take it you believe me?'

"Nope," Naruto flat out states. "But I don't think you want to hurt me, and I wanna know more jutsu and stuff. So, what else ya' got?"

'Haha, I can get behind that,' Naru-nii remarks, no less amused. 'We don't have a lot of time, so I'll explain your training first. After that, if there's enough time, I'll tell you more about what happened.'

"Mn-hmn," Naruto sounds in complete approval. "This is going to be sweet! I can't wait to burn Sasuke-teme to a crisp with fire-jutsu! The look on his face," Naruto calls out laughing at the pranksters vivid imagination.

'Huh, I can almost see it,' Naru-nii comments. 'Well, listen up because every second counts.'

"Hai!" Naruto yells enthusiastically.

'The most important thing you'll ever learn is chakra control,' Naru-nii asserts. 'Now before you start complaining, you need to understand that this is like the backbone of every awesome jutsu you use. Think about Ramen without the delicious broth—it's like that. Kakashi-sensei is going to teach you chakra control in... let's see... have you guys started your first D-rank mission yet?'

"No," Naruto answers. "After we passed the bell test, he said we'll start in a week, so mnn," quickly checking his fingers, "six days from now."

'Than he won't actually start teaching you guys chakra control for a little over two months,' Naru-nii states with an annoyed huff. 'This is vital stuff, man. Now that I think about it, Kakashi-sensei should've known you could learn this a lot faster than Sasuke.'

"REALLY!" Naruto yells boisterously.

'Hey, now, I may not be using my ears to hear you but that still hurts.'

"Shesheshe, sorry," Naruto returns.

'We're going to be using a training method a lot of other shinobi don't try because they either don't have the chakra reserves for it, or they die.' Naruto's neck stiffens and his eyebrows shoot up as Naru-nii continues. 'The reason why it'll be okay for us is because we have large reserves, and on top of that, we heal really fast, so our brain won't pop.' Naruto lets out a sigh of relief and Naru-nii continues to explain. 'Yosh, are you near a tree?'

At Naru-nii's behest, they move to a secluded spot deeper in the forest to train as the future Naruto explains the idea behind chakra control and how he can learn tree walking faster than anyone due to his Kage Bunshin. 'Well, not everyone,' he corrects himself. 'Sakura-chan got it on her first try. She's got scary good chakra control.'

"Alright Sakura-chan," Naruto bellows, taking a break as his clones kept trying to climb the tree, with very little success. "I always knew she was special. She even beat the teme!"

'Yeah, she's got the best chakra control out of all of us,' Naru-nii fondly replies before seriously stating, 'you know, we're going to have to help her out. She may have wicked chakra control but her reserves are pretty low, and more than that, she told me a bunch of times how she wished she trained more seriously when she was younger.'

"Yosh!" Naruto quickly agrees with him. "This is going to be great! When she sees how much stronger I am, she's definitely going to forget about that teme and go on a date with me! I'm fired up!"

'I don't think we can help her like that,' Naru-nii sadly tells the blond boy.

"Huh? Why not?" Naruto can only tilt his head up since technically there's no one to turn to.

'Answer me this, who does Sakura love right now?'

"Tch!" Naruto spits his answer, both of them acutely aware of the black-haired, self-proclaimed, avenger. "That's only because she doesn't know any better."

'Whether she has good reasons or not, it's still her choice to make. Just like no one can tell you who to love, no one can tell her who to love,' Naru-nii slowly expresses.

"But- That's not fair," Naruto calls out. "He doesn't even like her! All throughout the academy, he barely looked at her! How can she be okay with that? He thinks he's soo much better than everyone because he's an Uchiha and a little better at some things, but he's not."

'Listen, Naruto, I want to ask you something else and I want you to answer me honestly,' Naru-nii maintains. 'Do you love Sakura-chan?'

"Damn right I do!" the boy quickly answers without a moment's hesitation. "She's the best and the smartest and even though she's not from a ninja clan, that didn't stop her from being the top kunoichi in our class."

'What's her favorite color?' Naru-nii asks, pulling Naruto up short. When he couldn't answer Naru-nii continues, 'I guarantee you it's whatever color Sasuke likes. Her favorite food is probably whatever Sasuke likes. From her style to what she eats, everything about what she does has Sasuke in mind.' Naruto turns contemplative and uncharacteristically silent; they both are, but Naru-nii is the first one to grow anxious enough to ask, 'you still there?'

"...Mnn. Why are you telling me this?" Naruto whines. "It's really bumming me out here."

'Sorry,' Naru-nii sympathetically expresses. 'But the reason why I asked if you love her was because I already know you do-' "Then why-" Naruto interrupts but is quickly interrupted himself. 'Because I'm going to ask you to do something you won't like but will be better for her.'

"Huh?" he tilts his head, lost as to what he means.

'Naruto, I want you to love her enough to help her get strong rather than trying to impress her to be your girlfriend or go on dates. Right now, she doesn't know how strong she can really be because she's doing everything for Sasuke. It's like trying to study when you can only think about ramen.'

"Ahh!" Naruto quickly understands. "It's impossible to learn anything like that."

'Right now, she barely trains, spends most of her time on her looks, or studying topics she thinks Sasuke would like. It would be better if she were training to get strong so she can protect those she cares about, but she's just not there yet, so we have to help her realize that quicker. Trust me. You think she's the best now, wait till you see her destroy a cliff with her fist!'

"Uwwahhhh, that sounds absolutely perfect! She already has a wicked strong punch," Naruto happily says. "So how do we get her there?"

'I have a plan, but it all depends on you not pushing her with dates and stuff. I know that'll be hard since we've always loved Sakura-chan, but I promise you it's going to make her better. And later, when you see how proud she is of how awesome she is, you'll be happy you did this for her.'

"...If it's for Sakura-chan, I think I can do it," Naruto confidently states. "If it'll make her strong, I'll do anything."

'Hell yeah we will,' the voice eagerly agrees. 'Alright, now let's get back to training. We got a long way to go and I don't have much time left.'

"Can you at least tell me how you're talking to me from the future?" Naruto asks.

'You believe me now?' Naru-nii jokingly asks.

"No! I just... want to hear your explanation, is all," Naruto slowly reasons.

'Fine, but remember to keep this to yourself,' Naru-nii ardently suggests. 'You go telling people you're talking to a voice in your head that's from the future, they'll call you crazy and commit you to the insane ward... if you're lucky.'

"Got it," Naruto nods apprehensively. "They probably wouldn't believe me anyway."

'Well, remember the unbreakable genjutsu I mentioned before?' Naru-nii asks to which Naruto tilts his head to try and recall. 'You know, the one that has everyone trapped? It's called Infinite Tsukuyomi and it enslaves everyone in the entire world in a dream-state, feeding off their chakra.'

Naruto's face crunches as if tasking something horrible before asking, "so why aren't you trapped in the genjutsu too?"

'It's not enough to close your eyes or cover your ears. If your body receives any sensory information—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, than that the illusion has you. I'm pretty good at Fūinjutsu and I trapped myself in a sealed expanse—a dimensional pocket—completely cut off from the outside world,' he explains. Though Naruto doesn't completely get it, Naru-nii continues. 'Where I am now, everything is white and I can move around but I can't get out. I spent... well, I don't know how long it's been, but I tried to figure out a way to stop the Infinite Tsukuyomi before I get myself out of this seal, but I couldn't think of anything. That's how I started looking into traveling back in time. I felt confident I could do it but that equation is so complex, I could inscribe it on the white floor perfectly for a whole year and it still wouldn't be enough. Not to mention I probably wouldn't have the chakra necessary to actually power something like that.'

"So how'd you do it," Naruto can't help but ask, as he watches his clones struggle with the first three steps of the bark. "How did you get your voice to travel back?"

'Mnn, I didn't... well, not really,' Naru-nii quasi-answers. 'Kurama and I figured-"

"Kurama?" Naruto breaks in curiously.

'A friend keeping me from going insane,' he easily answers before moving on. 'We figure the only ones who were probably not affected by the Infinite Tsukuyomi, or heck, even time, was Kami-sama himself.'

"Are you Kami-sama!" Naruto whirls around asking to no one around. "Am I going to be Kami?!"

'No!' Naru-nii quickly calls. 'Will you just listen, sheesh. I'm not Kami and I wouldn't know where to begin to try and find one to even ask for help. But it didn't have to just be Kami. We figured it could be a shinigami as well, and I knew exactly how to get close to one. Our family has a really nasty sealing jutsu that calls on a shinigami. It has this tanto in its jaws, two red horns popping out of its long white hair, and prayer beads in its left hand. The problem with using this nasty technique is that you have to sacrifice your life for it.'

"Are you-" Naruto gulps. "…You're not dead are you?"

'It takes a hell of a lot more than a Shinigami to kill me, don't ya know,' he asserts with glee. 'I sort of tricked it, actually. If the Shinigami isn't affected by the illusion, and more than likely time because they're eternal, chances were good I could figure out some way to ask for help. But the more we thought about it, the less confident I was that we could convince it. But you know what? You and I have prayed occasionally, usually for amazing stuff like more ramen and fancy shinobi tools. Other people pray for all sorts of things. That's when I realized shinigami's prayer beads might be able to hear all prayer and if the prayer beads receive wishes from people, than it might also be able to send as well. It was the biggest gamble of my life and I don't care for gambling, but I went for it, and here I am. I summoned him, I stole his prayer beads, and told shinigami-sama I'd give it back to him after I was done using it.'

"You pranked the shinigami?!" Naruto yells. "Uwaahhh, he must've been pissed at you. Wait! Does that mean he's pissed at me too! You've doomed my soul to hell!"

'Calm down, you're not doomed. He wasn't really all that pissed, actually,' Naru-nii chuckles as he said. 'He agreed and I've been struggling to use this thing ever since. Like I said when we first talked, it takes all of my concentration and effort. That's why I can only do this for twenty or so minutes a day... or at least until I get better it.'

"Wow," Naruto says. "You're crazy man... awesome, but definitely crazy."

'Thanks, but for my loved ones, I'll fight anybody.'

"Hell yeah," Naruto calls with a clenched fist.

'Yosh! Lets master tree walking,' Naru-nii challenges good-naturedly. 'I'm thinking we can get to water walking before you meet Team Seven next week!'

By day's end and several hours into the night, Naruto lay panting, sweat soaked through his favorite blue and bright-orange jumpsuit, with a splitting headache, but he was making progress. He and his ten clones can already make it halfway up a tree before they exert too much chakra and are blown off. After dispelling his first clone, a day's worth of training nearly knocked him out, easily getting the headache started. By the fifth, for some reason, his mind felt strained, hollow-like, and chalky. After dispelling the final clone, he had a pounding headache, his bones felt hotter than the surrounding muscle, and his overtaxed chakra, for lack of a better word, felt like it was choking to move.

He needed to rest before he can make his way home. Even the way the night wind pulled at his hair hurt, but the pain cascading throughout his body was worth it—not that he expected it to last much longer. Injuries never seem to last long with him. Despite the labored breath of his comatose body, he felt happy. This was hard work. It's days like this that are the currency he needs to make his dreams of being the greatest Hokage ever come true. He just knew it. Tomorrow he would train even harder, Naru-nii will tell him more about his plan for Sakura-chan, and he'll be water-walking by next week.

SAKURA

Sakura was leaving one of the vendors her father's trade caravan is closely affiliated with carrying her prize securely in her grasp. So precious was this treasure, she couldn't risk leaving it in her bag. It will remain in her protective hands the entire walk home. Sakura was euphoric as she realizes nothing could stop her in her quest now, not with this absolute treasure. Armed with this fragrant weapon, she was sure to reach Sasuke-kun's heart now.

Sakura wasn't from a wealthy home and certainly didn't own property like many of the clans in the village, but her father came across all sorts of valuable items traveling through his trade routes, and her mother always ensured some form of commission for their family from her seat on the civilian council. Her father came across the latest silks, tools, wardrobe, and other odds and ends he finds throughout the country, and now, clutched in her strong grip, the most sought after bottle of perfume in all the elemental nations. Every kunoichi or civilian girl with a man in her pure heart has read about its amorous properties in one or all the beauty magazines. It's the nearest to a guarantee a budding girl with prospects of love in her heart could have... 'and it was all mine!'

And if Kami-sama hasn't smiled down wonders on her enough, walking towards her now is none other than her eternal rival and strongest competitor for Sasuke's affection; the only girl who doesn't seem to know when she's lost.

"Well, would you look at that," the platinum blond with pupil-less blue eyes starts mocking. "Wonders never cease. Somehow all the flies in the village managed to avoid hitting that gigantic forehead of yours," Ino hurtles. "Shooting stars happen less often than that."

Sakura was impervious today. The platinum blond's biting jab did nothing against the strength of her alluring weapon. Sakura allows a wide mischievous grin to spread her cheeks till they hurt, actually causing the beautiful blond to become cautious. Slowly, and quite deliberately, Sakura raises the incredibly distinctive, highly sought after expensive bottle of perfume with the showmanship of her delicate hand. It was a tiny thing she could easily hold between her thumb and index fingers, but the effect was as immediate as it was glorious.

Ino knew instantly what the pink-haired girl had and while Sakura is quite sure the Yamanaka clan have far more in their coffers than they need to purchase Ino a bottle, she doubted their clan head, her father, would shell out such an unreasonable amount of ryo for such a small bottle of liquid gold, especially when its only purpose is to make his daughter more attractive to boys.

Ino turns irate, before denial mars her beautiful face, then becomes angry again. Before Ino can even utter a syllable of righteous indignation, Sakura starts laughing heartily as she walks triumphantly passed her arch rival. Sakura didn't have to speak, her weapon was that strong and this battle is won. It's Sakura's victory.

"Enjoy it while it lasts!" Sakura hears the platinum blond beauty yell at her through the busy market street. "I- I'll get an even better bottle! You'll see!"

Other than having Naruto-baka on her team, absolutely everything was working out in her favor. Sakura hadn't seen Sasuke-kun since they passed Kakashi-sensei's bell test last week, so she was more than looking forward to seeing the perfection of his beautiful face and the amazement of his Kami-given ninja talent tomorrow. In her eyes, it was a foregone conclusion that he was a once-in-a-lifetime shinobi and no one could ever top him. She just had to make sure she looked perfect for him. After the tragedy he's been through, it's what he deserves after all.

Eagerly running home she couldn't wait until tomorrow. She absolutely needed to prepare and the more time she had the better the results will be. She had thought to spend some time training and honing her skills—after all, she was the top kunoichi of their class—but one look at her hair and she knew it didn't shine quite as vibrant as she knows Sasuke would like. One look at her nails, and though her profession as a kunoichi kept her from adding any color to them, she could still make sure they were perfectly manicured, not that she knew if Sasuke liked properly maintained fingernails, but she couldn't risk disappointing him if it indeed mattered. Add to all of that, her new premium fragrance in hand and there was no way he could ignore her tomorrow.

NARUTO

'D-Rank missions suck,' Naruto mentally tells Naru-nii.

Last week flew by in a hurried blur of training, strength training, eating ramen, hurting all over, sleeping, training some more, then repeat, repeat, repeat. It was the hardest week of training Naruto had ever experienced in his life, more so than his entire six years in the Academy. It wasn't to say that he didn't try as hard in his school days, but the bits of progress he was making under Naru-nii was different than the scraps he could scrounge together from hard-hearted sensei who didn't seem to care about his education in the least.

In his youth, when his school texts were stolen, they would never give him another one. When he didn't understand something, the sensei's were always too busy to help him. He was even banned from the library. If Naru-nii ever turned out to be a fake, Naruto couldn't see himself becoming terribly upset about it. Naru-nii was teaching him in earnest, even if it was for only twenty to thirty minutes a day.

The training was even tailored made for him. Every day of the past week he spent most of the morning—when he managed to wake up before noon—practicing his taijutsu against three to four clones as another four or five would be practicing chakra control. After he managed tree-walking, he had four days to master water-walking, and though it was much harder, by the end of last night's training, he and his clones were lightly jogging on the small lake in Training Ground 3. Soon after the throbbing head pain of dispelling his clones abated, he was giddy the entire trek back to his apartment.

Naru-nii pushed him, not cruelly but because he cared, and it was worth it. Even when Naru-nii was resting from using the prayer beads and couldn't coach him, Naruto gave it his all. He may not have experienced the things his older counterpart had, but thinking about Iruka-sensei, it wasn't hard to imagine. By the end of the week, Naruto definitely believed Naru-nii. He believed that this was his future-self talking to him, training him, as well as the story he told. It also meant that something stronger than even his future-self would be coming in a few years, and he absolutely needed to be the one to stop it.

It wasn't all doom, however. Naru-nii would tell him other interesting things; how he has really high chakra reserves, tenketsu points that were larger than normal, followed promptly by what tenketsus points are, his elemental affinity type and how it's used. As a physical learner, Naruto has yet to fully grasp most of the information explained to him, but Naru-nii doesn't seem to have a problem repeating something or trying to make it easier to understand.

'Yeah, I wasn't a fan, at all.' Naru-nii responded.

'How long are we suppose to do D-Ranks for?' Naruto mentally asks him as he and the rest of Team 7 exit the Hokage Tower.

'A heck of a lot longer than you'll like,' the older version answers. 'Have you been dismissed yet?'

Tilting his head to look at his Jōnin-sensei reading his little orange book, Naruto mentally answers, 'nearly.'

'Don't forget the plan,' Naru-nii maintains.

'I won't,' Naruto sternly declares. 'If it involves tricking people, I'm pretty good at that. Though, usually it's to get back at someone or make myself laugh.'

'Now we use that talent for a little bit of good,' Naru-nii happily asserts.

'Yeah, yeah,' Naruto groans, unhappily about the plan, and physically shrugging. 'Hey, how come you didn't tell me Kakashi-sensei was going to be three hours late!'

'Hahaha,' Naruto heard Naru-nii laugh.

"That's not cool man!" Naruto yells at him, looking and pointing upward.

"Na, Naruto?" Kakashi calls curiously. "What's not cool? And who are you talking to?"

Naruto whirled around in panic before quickly trying to school his features, failing miserably at it. "Aha... well, uh, I only meant, if we're done for the day, that- that stupid cat scratched us up pretty good, right?" Sasuke and Naruto did most of the engagement, while Kakashi coordinated, and Sakura provided support. But since Sasuke doesn't heal as fast as Naruto, Sasuke was the only one with plenty of red claw marks on his arms and face.

"I'm going to shave that stupid cat's hair off and skin him alive," Sakura angrily announces. "No one does that to Sasuke-kun and gets away with it!"

"Na, na, I was scratched too Sakura-chan," Naruto weakly offers.

"So," she hurls back at the blond before moving to Sasuke's side.

"I think we're done for the day," Kakashi tells his team. "You all did fine work. We'll meet tomorrow by the bridge, seven am. Don't be late."

"That goes double for you!" Naruto yells at his sensei but Kakashi had already shinshin'ed away. 'Don't worry, I got something you can do while you wait,' Naru-nii tells his younger self. 'And it's totally going blow his mind when he sees.'

'Cool,' Naruto responds, almost missing Sakura ask Sasuke if he wanted to train, or eat, or take a stroll, or shop together, all of which he ignored with a barely concealed scowl as he started walking toward his home. Sakura stood deflated sniffing her wrists, asking herself, "maybe I didn't use enough?"

Besides smelling really nice, and admiring her long pretty pink hair, Naruto didn't know what to make of her efforts in relation to what he was prepared to do for her. It's not every day you give up the girl of your dreams so she can grow strong and in exchange for your sacrifice, she likely ends up with another man. It's a lopsided sinking feeling that drags his feet and slumps his shoulder, but, he wanted—more than anything—for her to be happy and strong, and Naru-nii did tell him they'd be really good friends in the future and even better teammates, so that was a positive in his book.

"Ne, Sakura-chan-" Naruto starts but is quickly interrupted by an ill-tempered Sakura.

"If you even think of asking me out on a date, I'll hit you so hard you'll land on the other side of the village!" Sakura's murderous green eyes and lethal tone made Naruto take a cautious step back, putting his palms up to show he's not a threat.

She spins around to head home when Naru-nii tells him, 'I know it's hard but, remember, you're doing this for her—for the girl we both love.' Taking a moment to gather up some courage, he runs after her, calling out, "Sakura-chan!" She hadn't gotten very far but as she turned to the call of her name, she's already raising a fist to carry through on her threat. "Wait! Wait! I'm not trying to ask you out!"

Her fist still up and clearly in a bad mood, she hollers back, "than what?!"

Splitting his attention between her clenched fist and her beautiful green eyes, he nervously answers, "I- …I want to help you."

She stares suspiciously for several long seconds before finally lowering her fist and irately asking, "how?"

Taking in a quick breath, and relaxing some of the tension in his shoulder, he clarifies for her precisely how he and Naru-nii had planned it the last two days. "I thought of a good idea to h-help you... get closer to... Sasuke-teme." That was far harder to say than Naruto was expecting—he spent many grueling hours obsessing over it—and somehow the stomach churning and choking chest feels worse than he imagined. Worse still, his knees felt weak, and his eyes started to grow hot with prickly moisture.

This was the love of his life he was helping set up with not just another boy, but his eternal rival. The aching strain in his chest was partially ignored in favor of answering her question.

"What? What do you mean? How?" She took a step forward, forgetting her earlier agitation for the possibility this could mean for the future she imagined with her love. She was fully expecting to be a snarky brat for the day and drive her parents crazy after the perfume seemed to fail, but maybe there was hope of turning her day around... even if Naruto-baka was the reason for it.

"Okay, first," Naruto started, rushing to get this day over with. He's already planning on a full contact brawl fest against as many clones as he can make. He even makes a mental note to give them clear instructions to beat him to a bloody pulp, certain that no matter how badly he was beaten or broken, it wouldn't hurt as much as this. "Do you know what Chakra Control is?"

"Of course, you idiot," she tells him, using her near eidetic memory to recount to him, "it's the ability to sufficiently control and conserve your chakra. They taught us that in the Academy."

"Really," Naruto genuinely asks. "I don't remember that."

"That's because you're an idiot who can barely remember what side of the kunai is sharp," she hurtles back.

"Ha, ha, you didn't have to say all that," he weakly tells her, covering the sting of her verbal jab with a weak smile, though she doesn't seem to care. Eager to move on, he continues, "yeah, well, I know you're the top kunoichi of our year so you must have really good chakra control. In fact, I bet it's perfect!"

Sakura eyes him wearily, never one to particularly like his compliments or advances but she couldn't really say otherwise. "Maybe," she simply states. "I've been told I have good control over my chakra, but aside from the leaf concentration training we hardly use any jutsu in the academy, so I can't be sure. Why? And what does this have to do with Sasuke-kun?"

"Everything," he says with a strained smile, doing everything he can to appear happy to help her even though he was dying inside. "I got the perfect way for you to put your hands all over him, and the best part is, he'll be happy you did!"

Sakura was visibly vibrating with excitement, thinking, 'if what he's saying is true, than I'll be able to touch my Sasuke-kun whenever I wants, and then he'll be happy I did, and then we could probably start dating, and then we could maybe even possibly... kiss.' Sakura's entire body swoons at the thought, turning beet red, her half-lidded eyes were dilated, and her heart and stomach were swapping from warm to fluttery.

This could be a big win for her. Even though she used an entire life's supply of luck to be on Sasuke's team, that wouldn't stop Ino form trying to gain his attention. Hell, Ino might not even stop if Sasuke and herself started dating. With Ino's admittedly mature beauty and charm as her enemy, it wasn't enough that Sakura and Sasuke were on the same team. Sakura couldn't get complacent. She needed to do anything and everything possible to be with Sasuke because she's certain there isn't another Kunoichi alive who would treat him right. Whatever Naruto thought of—if his claim panned out—would be for the amazing future she planned to have with Sasuke-kun.

"Sakura-chan... Saaaakura-chan," Naruto kept calling for three minutes before she finally regained her senses.

"Tell me!" she demanded, rushing him a little with clenched fists. He startled, taking a step back as she insists on knowing, "what's the idea?"

Smiling somewhat happily to see her enthusiastic reaction, though still hurting by the reason why, he tells her, "you become an Iryō-nin!"

"Huh?" Sakura asks, face dropping with disappointment.

"Think about it," Naruto starts. "Sasuke-teme is a mid-to-close range fighter, so every time he gets hurt—even a little scratch on his cheek—you would be the one to heal him, which means you have to touch him. If you knew Iryō-ninjutsu right, you could've healed all his scratches and he would've been super thrilled you did. Plus, it would round out the team, right? Kakashi-sensei, Sasuke-teme and I are the fighters, so we'd need someone to patch us up if something happens."

Sakura continued to peer suspiciously throughout his entire explanation, though the reason changed from, 'how idiotic his idea sounded,' to, 'Naruto-baka thought all of that after their first official meeting together?'

"Besides think of all the cool things they can do, like healing people who are hurt and saving lives. With your control, you could be, like the best healer in all of Konoha. Plus, I'm sure they have some really famous Iryō-nin too," Naruto explains. Naru-nii was very adamant about how he said, 'some really famous Iryō-nin too,' because he was pretty sure Sakura-chan would automatically think of the village's most famous Iryō-nin, since a lot of kunoichi look up to her.

Both Narutos keenly understand that in any good prank, the more the person getting pranked thinks on their own to agree with you, the better the result will be. And looking at the realization dawn on her face at the mention of 'famous Iryō-nin,' he was pretty sure she remembered the one Naru-nii briefly talked about.

After a few seconds of deep thought—if her pondering expression is anything to go by—she finally speaks up, "I- there's no way... I- I couldn't-"

"You could!" Naruto passionately interrupts her. "And I can prove it!"

Now completely flabbergasted by the annoying blond, Sakura can't help but gripe, "how?"

"Come on," he calls as he runs over to the nearest tree. After she catches up to him, he tells her, "I bet you anything you can Tree-Walk on your first try. That would definitely tell you if you can do it!"

"I don't know how to Tree-Walk, Naruto," she returns genuinely. "Kakashi-sensei hasn't taught us that. He hasn't taught us anything yet."

"Even if he didn't teach you, I still think you can do it," Naruto returns his enthusiasm for training driving the point home. "All you have to do is focus a steady amount of chakra to the bottom of your feet and use that to stick to the tree so you can climb. If you use too little, you'll slide off. If you use too much, you'll get shoved off, and break the tree. Think of it like a magnet. Come on, give it a try. Remember, this isn't just for the team... it's also for... Sasuke-teme." He sighs at the anguish, but she doesn't seem to notice.

With a determined look on her face, she nods and turns to the tree. Generally, Sakura's accustomed to learning new techniques with the direction of a sensei, and not an idiot like the one beside her, but for Sasuke-kun she's more than willing to try this at least. Because if this was as possible as Naruto seems sure it is, than maybe she could use this to get closer to Sasuke-kun than any other kunoichi could, especially her rival, Ino-pig. Molding her chakra has always been as easy as stretching and she effortlessly manipulates the flow of energy to her feet. Her first step is a tentative one.

She did have to admit, however, that a small part of her liked the prospect of moving in a direction similar to Tsunade-sama of the Legendary Sannin. Like many Kunoichi in the village, Tsunade-sama was a heroine of hers. She grew up hearing stories of her strength, her legendary healing ability, and her beauty. So many girls in the academy aspired to be her, whenever students had to create a report of their favorite shinobi, a good eighty percent of the girls chose Tsunade-sama.

So when her first step stuck, easily, followed by her second step—also as easily—Sakura began to wonder how well she may actually be able to do. With her third step, she was completely parallel to the ground but felt no danger of falling. She was in complete control, and honestly, a part of her couldn't believe it.

"Way to go Sakura-chan!" she hears from the ground beneath her.

Another part of her couldn't believe Naruto was the one who led her here. He's not a sensei, nor is he smart, or talented; he's the Dead Last of their class, and yet he urged her to Tree-Walk before anyone else. When she made it to the top of the tall tree, she was a little winded, but funny enough, she was proud. Not that this was anything to be proud of. She knows this is only a first step many shinobi can easily do, but, to know she was now among them, gave her a small sense of pride.

Reaching the ground, Naruto couldn't help the huge grin on his face as he proclaims, "I knew you could do it! On your first try too! That's so badass!"

"Yeah..." she huffs, winded but mildly enjoying the praise, even if it is from the baka. She leans against the tree to rest some.

"Are you okay," he asks with a heavy amount of concern in voice. 'She had small chakra reserves in the beginning,' Naru-nii answers him as Sakura just waves him off to say she's okay.

"You probably have low chakra reserves," Naruto sagely repeats to her, making Naru-nii laugh a little. Sakura looks at him questioningly as Naru-nii tells him, 'I think she's on board. Now you have to talk to Ji-chan.'

'I remember,' Naruto mentally replies.

'I'll probably disappear before your done so let me just explain what you're going to do every time Kakashi is late, which sucks to say, will happen all the time.'

'Do you know why that is?' Naruto asks. 'I mean, why he shows up late?'

'I do, but I can't really get into that now,' Naru-nii proclaims. 'Next time.'

'So, what am I doing?'

'There are a couple of exercises that'll help you master your Fūton chakra,' Naru-nii sagely explains. 'There are so many badass jutsu that you'll be able to learn after these exercises. It'll be super hard to beat you then.'

"Uuuawwwhh," Naruto moans, salivating at the thought, and finishes with, "I want!"

"Want... what?" Sakura slowly asks from the tree, before pushing off to walk to him.

"Nothing!" he quickly tells her remembering he's not alone. "I think we should start walking to Hokage Tower."

"What? Why?" She gasps, not at all expecting Naruto to say that.

"Cuz, I think Ji-chan can help us," Naruto earnestly responds to his pink-haired teammate.

With an exasperated sigh, Sakura begrudgingly decides to educate him. "Naruto-baka, we can't just walk into Hokage Tower like that. Everyone there is extremely busy."

"Don't worry," he tells her already starting to walk. "It'll be fine. Besides, you need some intro stuff to be Iryō-nin."

"Well, why can't we just get them from Kakashi-sensei," she asks, running after him.

"He's not here and I don't know where he lives," Naruto naturally tells her. "Do you?" She just shakes her head, her beautiful long pink hair flowing easily with every shake of her head as they walk toward the tower they had left only twenty or thirty minutes ago.

'So,' Naru-nii starts as the teammates walk in silence. 'The exercise goes like this; you take a leaf, any leaf will do, place it flat on your left palm, cover it with your right palm than try to cut the leaf in half using just your chakra.'

'That sounds crazy,' Naruto returns. 'Can I really do that?'

'Hell yeah you can and so much more,' Naru-nii answers with complete confidence. 'When you're trying to cut through it, that's when you're manipulating Fūton natured chakra through your hand. Try to think of it like making your chakra as thin and as sharp as possible. Don't worry if you don't get it right away, it took me a while and I had thousands of clones doing it at the same time.'

'Mnn, sounds tough, but it wouldn't be worth it if it wasn't,' Naruto reasons. 'So do this when Kakashi is late? Should I make clones while I do it too?'

'Mnnn, not yet,' he answers. 'I want you doing something before he eventually shows up. Though, you probably oughta make some clones in the morning and have them practice Water-Walking while you wait. Dispel them when sensei shows up so you're not dead on your feet for your missions.'

'Urrggh,' Naruto mentally groans. 'All our D-Missions had better not be like this, or I'm going to snap at some point.'

'Hahaha, yeah. I'm just about out,' Naru-nii states. 'Tell me how it goes tomorrow.'

'Mnn! Will do, Naru-nii,' Naruto mentally returns but with a very real smile.

"What are you smiling about?" Sakura asks suspiciously with a hint of disgust.

"Uahhh," Naruto groans, fidgeting a step before awkwardly answering, "the real question is why aren't you smiling? I mean our team just got a whole lot stronger with an Iryō-nin."

"Baka," Sakura calls back, though lacking the same heat she might have if he had insulted Sasuke. "I'm not an Iryō-nin yet. I don't even know how you plan on getting me material from Hokage Tower. We may be genin, but they don't just see anyone."

"Well, I don't know about others but we're going to see Ji-chan," Naruto informs her. "I don't usually have a problem with seeing him, though sometimes he's pretty busy."

Sakura is skeptical of her blond companion, but sure enough, Naruto, without being prompted to by the Chūnin secretary, without being summoned by the Hokage himself, without even hesitation to second-guess himself, simply grabs the doors handle and walks right in, as if he were walking into his house.

"Hey Ji-chan!" the young blond calls out.

Slack-jawed, Sakura can't believe Naruto-baka would call the leader of their entire village, the strongest shinobi, 'Ji-chan,' as if they were related. No, not even if they were related because even blood relatives to the Hokage would show more respect than that. 'He really is an idiot!' she couldn't help but think, ready to drag him to the floor, to bow and beg for forgiveness, that is until the Hokage just chuckles.

"Back so soon Naruto-kun?" the pleasant elder asks the grinning blond. "Eager for another D-Rank mission?"

"Blechhh!" Naruto tongues. "You can keep those!"

The Hokage couldn't help an aged belly full of slow laughter. It truly was a nostalgic pleasure to see the young repeat the same experiences he had when he was a genin. "What can an old man help you with today," the Sandaime asks, then peers to the pink haired girl still standing by the door with quite the look of surprise on her face. "Isn't this your teammate?"

"Mnn!" Naruto happily hums, turning from the Hokage to Sakura, then back.

"Ah, forgive me, Hokage-sama," Sakura starts stepping in and bowing respectfully. "I'm Haruno Sakura, member of Team 7."

"Yes, I recall," the Sandaime easily says, taking out his pipe and prepping for a good puff. 'It's always an interesting break when Naruto shows up,' he thinks. "What can I do for you?"

"Na, Ji-chan, do you have any scrolls or something that can help Sakura-chan do Iryō-ninjutsu. She's got wicked perfect chakra control, and it would be super cool if our team had an Iryō-nin in it."

"Mnnn," he hums in sheer amusement, aged eyelids lifting with genuine curiosity. For this Naruto to ask for such a thing was the best surprise of a rather taxing week. "I agree having an Iryō-nin on the team would be quite advantageous, but Naruto-kun, how do you know this?"

"What do you mean?" Naruto asks quirking a brow. "Once we become genin, we have more access in the library. I was looking for cool jutsu but I found one about chakra control. Since Sakura-chan has perfect control, that means she'd make a great Iryō-nin, right Ji-chan?"

"It most assuredly helps, greatly in some cases," the Hokage answers, looking at them both. "Why come to me, then; instead of your Jōnin-sensei?"

"It's not like I didn't think he'd help, but he left after our mission and I don't know where he lives, so I can't ask him," Naruto explains. "Besides, we just need something for Sakura-chan to start with. She's got like a perfect memory, so I bet she can remember things better than I can," he finishes with a smile.

"Oh, I don't know Naruto-kun, you can remember a lot, it seems," the elder tells him. Getting up, the Hokage moves toward the far wall, with several long shelves filled with many scrolls topping many more. "Mnn, I happen to have a collection of scrolls on Iryō-ninjutsu that spans from beginner to intermediate." Looking through his many scrolls, he finally pulls two out, then turns to a nervous Sakura. "Now, these are very precious to me, so you have to promise to be careful with them. They were gifted to me by one of my students so you'll have to return them when you're done, understand?"

"Yes! Of course Hokage-sama," Sakura quickly conveys. "This is such an honor, I'll be extra careful with them, I promise." She cautiously takes the scrolls with both hands supporting each end as if she were holding a sickly baby.

"Alright," Naruto calls from his seat. "I knew you could help, Ji-chan!"

"So, how's your training coming along Naruto-kun," the elder asks retaking his large seat.

"I'm going to be the greatest Hokage ever!" Naruto bellows proudly. "So my training is top secret right now... but, what I can tell you is I'm working on my chakra control. Neh, Ji-chan, did you know I have high chakra reserves, which is why I can make a lot of Kage Bunshin and be okay after?"

"My, my Naruto-kun, you are growing before my weary eyes," the older man smiles. "Yes, I suspected that could be the case. You should continue to train on your control, so you can finally take my job."

"Damn right I will!" Naruto agrees vehemently.

"Speaking of, I should get back to work," the sagely elder tells them. "Thank you for entertaining an old man for a few minutes at least."

"Any time," Naruto calls and they start to leave, but Naruto has to pause at the door. Turning to his first ever friend, Naruto asks, "Neh, Ji-chan, do you know if Iruka-sensei is okay? They won't tell me anything. They won't even let me see him."

"I'm afraid I can't release his medical information, however, I can tell you he will live. And if they won't let you see him, just remember, you're ninja, and ninja always find a way."

Thinking of his future counterpart, Naruto can't help but agree with a sad smile and a nod before leaving. Meeting Sakura just by the outside entrance, still carrying the scrolls like precious treasure, he immediately recalls how all this started by trying to help her win Sasuke's attention. On top of Iruka-sensei's injury, and now effectively giving Sakura-chan to another man, Naruto was not having a good day.

He grumpily dumps his hands in his pockets as she cautiously walks up to him, half her attention on the scrolls and the other half on him. "I thought you left?"

"I did. I am," she huffs. "I just wanted to ask you… are you- you're not related to Sandaime-sama, are you?"

"Wha? No," he throws back. "Why would you think that?"

"You were calling our Hokage, Ji-chan," She adamantly states as if it's the most obvious thing. "That is so disrespectful! He's the leader of our village and a very powerful political figure," she loudly retorts as if he only needed to be told louder for him to get it.

"I've always called him Ji-chan," Naruto returns with a non-committal shrug. "That's just... I don't know, that's how I normally talk to him."

Further confused, she follows up asking, "how often do you talk to the Hokage?"

"Mnnnn," he hums, tilting his head up to the bright blue sky, thinking back. "More so when I was younger but I'd say at least twice a week, now. Sometimes once every two weeks if he's really busy."

"You're lying!" her instant reaction quickly says.

"Wha- Am not!" He defends, his brows furrowing in disbelief rather than anger. He can stand a lot but he doesn't think his own teammate should call him a liar. "I wouldn't lie about that!"

"You have to be!" she throws back. "He's the Hokage and you're nothing but a Dead-Last baka!"

The shock could not be clearer on his face, one that quickly transforms into sad resignation. That's just another layer to the type of day he's having. He woke up late for the meeting but his own sensei was over three hours late. Then there was that Kami awful D-Rank mission, followed by this gut-wrenching plan to help the love of his life win the heart of another man, and now this. The girl of his dreams thinking so little of him, she couldn't even recall being in the Hokage's room not five minutes before while he chatted with the old man like he always does. The idea of crawling in the earth and dying seems nearly as appealing as training… nearly. The silence between them is stifling for several moments before he says, "if I'm going to give you a lot of practice healing the teme, I better go train."

And train he did. While his clones worked on his chakra control, Naruto runs, trains his muscles, then runs some more, and repeats. Hours and hours of it, until his stomach had twisted itself into a tight not and threatened to eat itself if he didn't get some ramen. The last thing he did before going to sleep, was leave a cup of instant ramen on the nightstand of Iruka-sensei's room. Naruto didn't expect him to be awake, but he hoped with everything he had that his favorite sensei would see and know that he was thinking of him.

I hope you enjoyed the read. I don't read too much Naruto fanfiction so I wasn't sure if anyone thought of this idea to use Shinigami-sama's prayer beads to talk to a past self. Please let me know if anyone has. I'd love to read their take on it.

I just to quickly add that I may push particular qualities from the manga/anime that stand out the most to me, for instance, I know Sakura was nice to Naruto in the beginning but not all the time and especially not before the Escort Mission to Wave. These characters can sometimes feel like caricatures of their canon counterpart but I don't think I would go OOC.

Also, I'm not Sasuke's biggest fan but I won't outright bash him. I just never really bought the lengths Naruto went to for a person that was shown to be at best cold/indifferent to him. Made no sense to me. Maybe if Kishimoto made them running buddies-cruising the streets of Konoha-when they were kids, before the Uchiha massacre, I'd have an easier time believing how far Naruto went for Sasuke, but oh well. That's why Fanfiction exists I guess. I do have plans for Sasuke but they won't happen anytime soon, so expect an asshole for now.

As always, please let me know your thoughts, and have a great one,

-Grae

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