The wind always seemed to pick up around the Memorial Stone and bring a chill to the area. It was early dawn, so early the sun had yet to rise. Kakashi Hatake found himself at the same spot he frequented. It was the one place he felt he was allowed to uncover his Sharingan out of respect for its original owner. For the longest time he just stood there looking at two names. It had been years since their names were added and yet he always found it hard to come up with the right words to say to them.
Kakashi Hatake, son of the Fabled White Fang, and genius of his time. Made Jonin at the age of 12 and labeled a Team Killer among the Anbu and others. He had a lot to tell them and yet it never seemed like enough time. So he started from right after Rin died; which still made the hole in his soul grow a bit deeper. He talked of how their Sensei assigned him as an Anbu, but due to the ruthlessness he showed with his Raikiri, he was assigned as Kushina's bodyguard.
Kakashi actually chuckled as he talked about trying to shadow the fiery Jinchūriki during her pregnancy. She always could sense him no matter how well he hid his presence and Chakra. His chuckle was short lived though as he spoke of his failure to protect her and how it cost their Sensei his life. He apologized for his failures, but continued on. He spoke of his times as a member of Root, he actually got embarrassed at how easily Danzo was able to manipulate him at his lowest point.
Convincing a younger Kakashi the Third didn't allow him, one of their elite, to fight the Kyūbi due to their age, was a sign that the Elder Hokage was not fit to take over after the Fourth. It wasn't until his spying on the Third and getting caught was he shown the truth. Danzo had a Wood Release member of Root who could have helped and even saved the Fourth and perhaps Kushina had he used him. Instead Root was completely absent from the attack while the Third bravely fought alongside so many brave Shinobi. Danzo saw the Kyūbi incident as more of a power move than the tragedy it was; definitely not someone he wanted to side with.
The time seemed to fly by and while he probably told his fallen friends life without them over a dozen times, he couldn't help but recite it again. It was the least he could do to fill them in. Who knows, perhaps the next time he visited them he would have more than just failures to report.
Meanwhile, awaiting their tardy potential sensei were Naruto, Hinata, and Sasuke. The Hyūga had her Byakugan active and was keeping an eye on Kakashi. She informed the two boys their sensei was at the Memorial Stone not that far from the training ground. She turned it off when she saw the Scarecrow Jonin look towards her lazily before seemingly stared back at the stone; she didn't have enough time to read his lips.
"Alright so we can assume this must be part of his test. So I'm curious what kind of test you two think we will face, before I give my own idea." Naruto offered either the floor.
Naruto had a solid idea what the test would be. He and Anko shared quite a few memories in the time leading up to Team Selections. She had a few memories with each of the Jonin Sensei that came to get his former classmates; though she had the most with Kurenai. She did have a memory of Kakashi back when she was first found after Orochimaru-Teme placed the Curse seal on her.
Sharingan Kakashi came into the room and interrogated her with the ever spinning Sharingan peering for lies. He asked her a series of questions, but ended by asking her if she knew of the bell test and it's meaning. She answered it was to teach teamwork and foster the notion that the tree is mightiest when the leaves work together; some drilled into her from her Academy days.
"Tsk." Sasuke grumbled to hide his empty stomach growling. Naruto was not to hide such things and let his stomach growl though he comically placed his hand on it to try to silence it. Even Hinata blushed at her own stomach betraying her mousy demeanor.
"Hmm? You volunteering O Great Uchiha? Why we are unworthy of your words of advice, but we will surely take them; spitefully of course." Naruto spat.
"And here I thought you matured, Dumbass. Well if you insist. I believe it will be some kind of survival test to see which of us deserves to be apprenticed. Despite his poor introduction I remember the name Hatake from talks my Father had with Him." Sasuke offered his idea.
"Alright not completely wrong. Not right, but close enough. Problem being an apprenticeship is usually a single student and thus defeats the purpose of placing us on Genin Teams of 3." Naruto shook his head a little disappointed in his rival.
"That's more of a hope than anything…" Sasuke admitted. Even he knew that was highly unlikely since Jonin aren't allowed to take on apprentices.
To limit the teachings and experiences of someone ranked Jonin was considered a waste and hurtful to Konoha's overall strength. Having only a few specialized people and the rest be no more than Genin level in comparison would surely spell their demise. It was something covered in the Academy; though Naruto learned when he begged the Third to let him be an apprentice of one of the Jonin since the Third refused the position.
"Keep dreaming. Hinata? Care to join us?" Naruto asked a bit guarded.
"Oh! Um yes. I believe…" Hinata started but stopped to both gather her thoughts and courage.
"It could be an endurance test. He told us not to eat and is stalling so that we grow hungrier and weaker by the hour. Perhaps when he finally arrives we will have to work… Together in some way to pass the test." Hinata theorized.
"Wow, Hinata-chan… That's almost perfect to what I think it will be. See, I think it will be a test of teamwork. Think about it, we used to see Genin teams throughout the Academy; even went on some trips to the outskirts and beyond the gate." Naruto pointed out.
When Naruto made it a point, Sasuke actually did remember seeing some Genin in his times at the Academy. Hinata did as well and they all agreed they were always a team of three. Sasuke even remembered He had to be on a Genin team of 2 others.
"That said this test will probably put us against each other and if we take the bait we fail. If teamwork is the answer then I have a 3 step plan that I think will help, but I bet Sasuke-teme has a problem with that." Naruto sighed towards the end already feeling the protest regurgitate out the Uchiha's mouth.
"Just because you've calmed down a bit doesn't mean you're still not a Dumbass. You have the headband so I won't question your merit, but I will question your skill. You were the dumbest of our class. You barely passed the graduation and that was just showing the basics." Sasuke made known his views.
Several angry bulges popped from Naruto's head, but unknown to Sasuke and to the shock of Hinata a seal inhibited the blonde until he was calm and neutral. Just one of a series of seals the young Uzumaki learned under Ashina and the Uzumaki Shrine. Transcript Seal: Calming Spirit; a particular seal tag used by the first host of the Kyūbi.
"Whatever. Look let's just say I was wearing a goofy face to feel like I belonged, but now I am ready to show I belong in a better way; as a proud and loyal Genin of Konohagakure. Will you at least listen to my 3 steps?" Naruto asked.
Sasuke was reluctant at first, but he was never one to deny someone who was trying to better themselves. Besides, the blonde at least seemed adept at the sealing arts and those were always convenient. Naruto grinned and began by showing Sasuke the seal tag he wanted to show him the previous day. Seeing as the seal tags were still visible meant they were still active according to the blonde. Listening to the prankster scheme made the Uchiha glad he had never really earned the blondes spite.
Back with Kakashi, the Red Eye Jonin finished his story with how he had been assigned to teach their Sensei and Kushina's son, an Uchiha, and a Hyūga Heiress of all people. The last of the Uzumaki and Uchiha were two he personally hoped passed his test. He didn't fail the others out of spite or even because he didn't think they weren't ready to be Shinobi. They simply weren't ready to be Konoha Shinobi due to their lack of teamwork. It was teamwork that made Konoha Shinobi so strong and resilient. Still he hoped differently for this team… Team!
Kakashi rubbed his head sheepishly when he realized how much time went by. Looking up at the sky he saw there was still time before noon, so he could make this quick and perhaps indulge in a little light reading. He managed to keep his blush down while at the stone sight. In a swirl of leaves, the Scarecrow Jonin vanished and appeared just a short stroll outside the training ground. He casually walked up to his potential team and saw they were all clearly annoyed.
Naruto's seal had to really work to repress all the angry veins popping out of his head. Hinata just puffed out her lips like a spoiled girl not getting her way and Sasuke did not hide his angry vein. Kakashi just waved them off and proceeded to tell them about his test: the bell test. How only 2 of them could pass and they only had until noon to get a bell or be sent back to the Academy.
Not wasting time, Naruto threw down some orange and blue smoke bombs, which Kakashi thought was a good tactic, until the smoke cleared and only Naruto stood cockily in the open. The one eyed Jonin only sighed and reached for something in his pouch. Not wanting the Jonin to get the drop on him, the blonde surprised the Jonin by pulling a scroll from his pouch, unraveling it and applying his chakra to it. In a plume of smoke, the blonde was armed with a simple kunai and charged the Jonin.
Kakashi made dodging the blondes poor strikes and leg sweeps look like child's play. He even managed to slip his hand into his pouch and pull out!... A book? Naruto actually face planted at the display and Sasuke even sweat dropped from his hiding place. Naruto grew furious and rushed Kakashi will all the intent to kill, but Kakashi not only parried the stabs easily, but was able to take the blonde's weapon from him and grapple him from behind. Naruto had an arm painfully placed on his back, while the other tried in vain to loosen the Jonin's grip on him. Kakashi held Naruto for a few seconds to see if anyone would rush out to save him. To his shock, both Hinata and Sasuke came to help. Things were looking up, so Kakashi decided to press them.
"Stand down or I'll kill Naruto." Kakashi fronted and even placed the blade against Naruto's neck.
On contact, the kunai exploded in a plume of smoke and revealed a Naruto clone who went for the bells, but was easily dispelled by a simple punch from Kakashi. Placing his hands in the tiger hand seal, Sasuke made a move to intercept, but it was too late. Instead of a fire style jutsu to burn the blonde alive, Kakashi hit him with his on personal taijutsu, "1,000 Years of Death!" poking the chakra infused hand seal into the butthole of Naruto, who grimaced and then smirked devilishly.
Kakashi was once again shocked and forced to use a body flicker in order to evade having the clone explode in his face! The one eyed Jonin actually had to dust himself off given how close that was. The rest was short lived as both Sasuke and Hinata rushed him, but something was off about them. They looked like them, but their movements and even their fighting styles didn't match up. Hinata's strikes weren't Gentle Fist, but felt more like he was fighting…
Seeing through Naruto's Transformation-Shadow Clone combination, Kakashi used his book to not only defend against the sloppy punches and kicks, but dispel both clones with said book. Naruto twitched in annoyance when he got the memories of the book title before his clone was no more; Make Out Paradise. From the trees, a handful of shuriken came soaring at Kakashi, who almost yawned at the display.
"Transcript Seal: Temporary Paralysis." Naruto whispered while pulling out his tag behind his back.
The seal tag burst in a flare of chakra and fire! Kakashi was paralyzed for a moment when he got brief flashes of the Kyūbi incident all those years ago. When we was sealed off in an area with the other kids and made to feel helpless. With a flash of chakra, the Jonin was freed and managed to not only make it seem like he was hit by the projectiles, but catch them between his fingers; making it look casually easy.
"You've definitely lived up to your moniker as the Unpredictable Shinobi. It's time I show you the next levels o thef Shinobi: Genjutsu." Kakashi declared.
"Demonic Illusion: Hell Viewing Jutsu!" Kakashi whispered too low for Naruto to hear.
The blonde Jinchūriki could only watch in a stupor as Kakashi disappeared in a swirl of leaves that seemed to spiral into nothingness. What followed was the worst thing Naruto never knew was a nightmare he didn't ever want to experience. It started with the Third Hokage declaring all ramen shops and products were banned from Konoha. Ichiraku closed down and in its place was a fresh vegetable shop; specifically cabbages! The trend eventually spread through the Fire Country until finally all the Great Nations completely abolished ramen from all lands! No ramen in any nation and only vegetables to replace them! Tomatoes, Cabbage, and even Cucumbers!
It was too much for Naruto to bear and he fainted from the horrific experience.
"Perhaps I went a little overboard…" Kakashi chuckled nervously.
Sasuke started to make the signs for the Uchiha Rite of Passage jutsu: Fire Release: Fireball jutsu, but he didn't want to hit Naruto. As annoying as the blonde could be, he refused to obtain power by being like Him. He decided to put a small amount of faith into the blonde's plan. Kakashi threw the shuriken were Sasuke was hiding, but the Uchiha was able to duck out the tree and into the field in plain sight.
"Hn. I'm not like Naruto…" Sasuke glared analytically at Kakashi, who was openly bored.
"He's managed to do something you haven't so far; actually surprise me. I have to say I thought it was weird the Lone Avenger would so readily team up with those he sees as weaker." Kakashi pointed out.
Sasuke had all the information he could get and rushed Kakashi with impressive speeds. He was definitely swifter than Naruto and his Taijutsu was solid. His strikes were aimed at crucial spots that would cripple a lesser man. The scarecrow caught every blow and easily partied it away harmlessly. The Uchiha was good at recovering and not allowing for a lot of follow up strikes; not that Kakashi threw any. His Taijutsu seemed focused on mostly evading and parrying the raven haired boy.
Seeing that he couldn't find an opening or land a single blow, Sasuke decided it was time to test his faith. Flashing through the hand seals at impressive speeds, the raven haired boy unleashed his Fire Release: Fireball jutsu as a jet of fanning flames instead of a concentrated fireball. Kakashi was forced to dodge the flaming jutsu, but the window it gave Sasuke was all he needed. In a burst of flames and chakra, the Uchiha Avenger activated his own Transcript Seal: Temporary Paralysis to once again inflict paralysis on Kakashi for but a moment. The scarecrow Jonin was forced to recall a time when he saw Itachi completely slaughter a team of enemies and yet he saw the young boy cry. Seeing his reaction brought back Kakashi's own experience with death; his father.
This time Kakashi sent out a bigger pulse than before! He didn't know how they were able to even remotely effect him with any Genjutsu since they hadn't used any hand seals and he hadn't felt any major chakra pulses. He could theorize it was the Temporary Paralysis jutsu, but the requirements for said jutsu hadn't been met in their spar… The spar! Kakashi was able to recover in time to evade Sasuke taking a bell; the Uchiha Avenger only managed to touch one with a finger. The scarecrow Jonin had a flashback to his Anbu days and took the spar seriously but for a moment.
Shifting into a new Taijutsu style, Kakashi had a hand behind his back and a palm fully extended in front of him in a come at me gesture. Not even letting Sasuke take his stance, Kakashi vanished before appearing beneath the Uchiha and rose up with a stunning kick to the chin! The force sent the raven-haired boy into the air, only to be met with a smashing double handle Axel blow driving him back down in a unconscious heap.
"Taijutsu Style: Strong Fist." Kakashi explained to the unconscious Sasuke.
Kakashi's victory was short lived when he once again felt the effects of the Transcript Seal: Temporary Paralysis, but was able to effectively reject it. Hinata was still able to cover the distance in the time it took to dispel it. Her Byakugan was pulsing and her Gentle Fist style was flaring with small bursts of chakra. Kakashi switched to his evasive Taijutsu style and made sure none of her blows even remotely connected.
"Final lesson: Ninjutsu." Kakashi declared before flashing through hand seals.
"Earth Release: Earth Style Wall!" Kakashi declared!
Hinata tried to strike Kakashi before he could finish his Ninjutsu, but her Byakugan showed her it was no use. The speed in which Kakashi made the hand seals, molded the chakra, and finally expressed it in the form of his jutsu was frightening to watch in action. A brick structured wall with bulldog sculptures rose up in front of Hinata and easily absorbed the blow. Soon after the Hyūga heiress found herself completely boxed in by the specialized earth wall. She saw him use the Hiding like a Mole jutsu and then follow it up with,
"Earth Release: Headhunter jutsu!" Kakashi told her after the fact.
Hinata couldn't react in time to stop Kakashi's hand from grabbing her ankle from underground. He then dragged her underground and only left her head visible. It was then the bell rang for the end of the test. Kakashi chopped Hinata in her blind spot and knocked her out. He then summoned a ninken named Shiba. He had the Shinobi hound dig out Hinata before letting it go back to its summon world with a treat for his efforts. The scarecrow Jonin then collected the other two and openly sighed as he carried all three to the posts.
Kakashi thought hard on who should get tied to the post. Who needed to understand teamwork the most out of them? They all showed good skill in their own fields. Naruto being the most surprising with exploding shadow clones; he didn't even know that was a thing! Still it was a cheap trick to try to fake teamwork with shadow clones and the transformation jutsus. For that alone, Kakashi tied Naruto up and woke them all up with smelling salts.
"Hey what gives! We passed your test so why am I tied up?!" Naruto declared.
"That's a cocky attitude to have considering the only teamwork I saw was between you and your clones. Using shadow clones and having them transform into your teammates doesn't count as teamwork. I would hope you could work well with yourself. I saw no attempts to be a team. Just a bunch of kids trying to play Shinobi harder than the others." Kakashi harshly stated.
"Yeah well that was just the 1st step. Or didn't you feel those Temporary Paralysis seals we hit you with? Know where we got them? I made them and gave them to Hinata and eventually Sasuke so we could hopefully have a better chance of getting a bell." Naruto defended.
"… So what would have happened if you did get the bells?" Kakashi tried to save face.
There was a lot of foresight put into Naruto's so called plan. It was true each of them were able to use what felt like the Temporary Paralysis jutsu on him.
"I would have given it to them and went back to the Academy. I could probably show the upcomers how to properly make a seal tag." Naruto snickered.
Kakashi could only chuckle. Frankly he didn't need to know the other steps. At least Naruto understood the importance of teamwork. He spent his time not only setting up his seals, but informed his team of them and even involved them in the sealing matrix in order for them to be able to capitalize on temporary moments of surprise and stunned.
Kakashi happily passed his first team! He even took them all to Monument stone via a body flicker and told them of the philosophy passed down to him by Obito and the lives that were lost for him to truly learn it. "Those who break the rules are trash, but those who abandon their comrades are worse than trash." He dismissed them with that and let them drag themselves home to recover and start their careers as a Genin team. Kakashi looked at the stone with a small smile for once. He had much to tell Obito and Rin and for once it wasn't half bad.
Alright ending it there. I was going to add the other team tests, but that would clash with the title. This chapter was a character study of Kakashi. How a "different" Naruto and team might change things even slightly. Perhaps we will get a more serious Kakashi. I feel Kakashi was always as strong as he was towards the end, but his depression limited him. He fought like someone who had little to live for. So he didn't mind over taxing himself if it meant he could die actually protecting the people he loves. After coming to terms with his dad and confronting Obito was Kakashi able to let go and use his full potential. Able to fully control his chakra and thus make what used to be taxing jutsus seem natural to him. Depression can truly cripple you in all ways.