Sasuke stood alone in the clearing, a warm breeze flowing through his hair. After he had announced the beginning of the bell test, his three students had scattered into the woods. At least the Academy had taught them something. They hid fairly well, although Sasuke knew for sure where every one of them were. He hoped that they wouldn't keep him waiting too long. He was keeping time in his head and the clock was ticking on their ten minutes.
Finally, someone stepped forward. Sasuke's eyes looked in front of him and he was surprised to see Takuma standing a few meters away. The boy let out a breath and raced forward, angling himself to Sasuke's right. Sasuke tracked him and watched the shurriken fly from his hand. As the ninja stars approached him, Sasuke caught them with one finger. Takuma then rushed forward and reached into his pocket, drawing several kunai and tossing them at Sasuke. The raven-haired jonin stepped out of the way and narrowed his eyes. Why was Takuma tossing weapons at him when he knew he'd dodge...
"Hakkeshō Kaiten!" a voice yelled from behind Sasuke. The kunai that Sasuke dodged reflecting a blue sphere of rotating chakra and flew back at Sasuke at a speed far greater than before. Almost too fast for Sasuke to simply side step. The older Uchiha flipped away, avoiding the expanding chakra sphere. Sasuke's eyes narrowed as he caught sight of the red-haired daughter of Naruto as her rotation ended. For Honami to utilize this advanced Hyūga clan technique was extremely impressive especially for a fresh Academy student. Sasuke wondered if Hinata had taken the time to teach her daughter or if Honami had sought the assistance of someone within her mother's clan...
As Sasuke reflected on where Honami could possibly have learned such a high-level technique, his eyes caught sight of a shadow above him. He heard Shōgo's yell before he actually turned and saw the boy. The brightly colored boy was closing in on Sasuke with surprising speed considering his poor taijutsu scores. Or maybe it was just Sasuke's momentum pushing him towards the kid. Sasuke smirked. That must have been the plan all along. Get the weakest member the bell first or, as Sasuke would've done, use him as a test of the opponent's strength.
Takuma had set up this plan.
Sasuke stopped in his tracks and caught Shōgo's fist as he came down and twirled him in mid-air. The boy's face turned to absolute fear when Sasuke reared back his fist and punched him straight into his sternum, sending him flying. Shōgo's flying body and his subsequent crash into the dirt told Sasuke that he hadn't pulled back on his punch as much as he thought he had. Sasuke was worried briefly that he had accidentally killed him.
"Shōgo!" Honami yelled as she raced toward her teammate, passing to Sasuke's left. Sasuke frowned and darted towards the girl, appearing in front of her. His cold black gaze caused Honami to freeze in her tracks.
"Stay focused on your enemy." Sasuke said. Surprisingly, Honami then smirked.
"Follow your own advice, sensei." she said as she disappeared in a puff of smoke. Before the smoke could dissipate, Takuma had emerged, a kunai drawn in his hand as he leapt towards Sasuke. The older Uchiha's head snapped back, narrowly avoiding the edge of Takuma's blade. Sasuke backed away as Takuma swung his kunai at his father's chest. Sasuke watched as his son threw the blade from his right and drew a second knife from his pocket, repeating the motion and then pressed forward.
His eyes focused on Takuma, Sasuke realized quickly that he had misplaced Honami and Shōgo amidst the smoke. He didn't have time to turn and see if the two of them were already behind him. Not if he wanted to give Takuma a swift lesson to discourage him from rushing blindly towards his enemy. Suddenly, however, the young Uchiha performed a hand seal and grit his teeth.
"Now!" he yelled. The two kunai that had flown past Sasuke's head disappeared into a puff of smoke. Sasuke's eyes widened with surprise as the knives transformed into Honami and Shōgo. The bodies that he thought were theirs evaporated as well, replaced by the clanging of the kunai falling to the ground. It was a fairly simple yet brilliant substitution.
He and Naruto had done virtually the same thing against Zabuza all those years ago but Sasuke hadn't thought that any of these fresh Academy students would be able to coordinate an attack strategy so advanced. Was this another one of Takuma's plans? Before Sasuke could beam with pride, he realized that the three potential genin were closing in on him. Takuma had another two kunai drawn, Honami's Byakugan was armed, and Shōgo leapt forward with his best taijutsu.
Sasuke could honestly say that he was impressed. Twice, the three young shinobi had displayed tactical ingenuity in orchestrating their attacks. If he had been a weaker opponent, the three genin would've definitely overwhelmed him or at least struck him with a decisive blow. But, he was Sasuke Uchiha, head of the Uchiha clan, protector of Konoha and savior of the world. He wouldn't let his students win so easily. Besides, there was still one more test of their teamwork that needed to be done.
As his students approached, Sasuke turned to Honami first, grabbing both of her wrists. Takuma approached from behind and Sasuke lifted his lower body into the air, rotating his hips and spreading his legs to kick both Takuma and the bright-colored Shōgo away. He then twirled and tossed Honami towards Takuma. Before the daughter of the Hokage collided with the young Uchiha, Sasuke saw something leave the boy's hand. The kunai wasn't close enough to deal a blow on Sasuke. His legs were spread and his hips down. Where the hell was he...
Takuma's kunai sliced through the cord holding one of the bells to Sasuke's belt and the small metal ball jingled as it dropped to the ground. That Takuma...the boy had such perceptive eyes, even without a Sharingan. To accurately throw a kunai even while being tossed away from the target was amazing. However, no one was down below to retrieve the bell. No one except Shōgo. The boy moved quickly as Sasuke descended, but he wasn't fast enough. As the bell fell, Sasuke lurched downward, snatching it right before Shōgo could grab it. The bright boy rolled in the dust and then jumped back to his feet.
"Damn it." the boy huffed as he placed his hands on his knees. Sasuke looked from Shōgo to Honami and Takuma. All three genin looked to be tired, especially Takuma. After leading the last two attacks and gaining nothing from it, his body must've been trying desperately to regain energy. However, he wouldn't give up. Although he seemed to share a lot of similarities to his late uncle Itachi, there was one thing that Sasuke knew that Takuma had inherited from him. Absolute stubbornness and a refusal to quit. Neither would Honami. From Shōgo's expression, neither would he.
"Your time is running up." Sasuke said coolly, his eyes looking at his potential team. "The enemy has evaded and overpowered you multiple times and is on the verge of escaping. No longer is the mission about simply retrieving the scroll. If this enemy escapes, the information within the scroll could be used to threaten your friends and families. Will you let them die because you were to weak to complete your assignment?" Sasuke asked.
Honami rose to her feet, the veins around her eyes indicating that her Byakugan was still activated. "No, sensei!" she said, dropping into a Gentle Fist stance. Shōgo balled his fists up and gulped.
"Neither will I." he said. The boy's eyes looked over to Takuma and Sasuke followed his gaze.
"Takuma...what is your answer?" Sasuke asked. The young Uchiha stood up, his face shrouded by his bangs. For some reason, Sasuke felt a cool chakra that shifted to something warm. When Takuma finally looked up, his eyes locking onto Sasuke's, the older Uchiha knew why.
"I won't let anyone hurt my family. Not my father, my mother, my little brother or my little sister. I'll die before I let someone hurt them." Takuma said, his eyes filled with a fiery determination Sasuke hadn't seen since the boy had first attempted to learn the Uchiha clan rite of passage.
I wonder if he'd feel the same about his new brother...Sasuke thought. He wondered what Sosei was doing now. If he had recovered from having his nerve point tapped earlier or if he was still at Naruto's mansion...
"Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!" Takuma yelled as a giant fire ball burst from his mouth and scorched the earth on its approach to Sasuke, snapping the older Uchiha back to the battlefield. Shōgo leapt out of the way and Sasuke dodged to the left. Honami appeared and began to attempt strike Sasuke with her Gentle Fist techniques. Sasuke was tempted to activate his Sharingan, but he refused to let three Academy students push him that far. He had enough of an advantage as it was.
The time was nearly up.
Shōgo threw a barrage of shurriken at Sasuke as Honami leapt backwards. Sasuke avoided them and was rushed from behind by Takuma, who span his kunai on his finger before lunging forward. The three students leapt in and out as they attacked Sasuke from all sides, using whatever they could to try and distract him long enough to take the bells. The repeated exchanges lasted longer than Sasuke had anticipated or really initially wanted. But he could almost say he was having fun.
Soon, however, the time for fun was finished. The sun was climbing into the sky and that meant that noon was approaching. As the three potentials raced forward to attack Sasuke again, the Uchiha jonin disappeared and reappeared across the field from them, raising his hand to notify his team that the time to attack was over. Befitting of future shinobi, the kids stayed in combat stances, despite Sasuke's signal. They were better than he thought...
"Your ten minutes is up. Now, you have until noon to find the two bells. Good luck." Sasuke said, as he disappeared once again. Sasuke didn't travel far. His Body Flicker carried him into the trees. He wanted to see how the team reacted after a failed mission. If someone would take the blame, if there would be quarrels amongst the children and if they would crack underneath the pressure.
"Ah, shit...we almost had him." Shōgo sighed loudly as he fell to the ground. Honami nodded and Takuma looked down at Shōgo coolly.
"We never had him." the young Uchiha said. "Fa-Sensei didn't even bother to activate his Sharingan. At best, we surprised him. I think he severely underestimated our abilities and our capability to function as a team." Takuma said. Honami nodded.
"I don't think we would've done nearly as good if it hadn't be for you, Shōgo." the red-headed girl said with a smile. Sasuke's eyes widened. Shōgo had created the plans? The dead last in his class had managed to construct attack strategies with teammates he had barely spent any time with that not only surprised Sasuke with their effectiveness but also kept him on his toes. Sasuke had thought that Takuma constructed the plans. Sasuke narrowed his eyes and listened intently.
The orange-haired boy rubbed the back of his head and smiled. "Thanks. I guess I was useful, huh?" he said. Takuma smiled lightly and nodded.
"Very. But, we can talk about that later." he said. He looked up into the sky and made a bridge above his eyes with his hand. "It's going to be noon, soon." Takuma said. Honami nodded.
"So, what's the plan this time?" she said. "There are two bells. We'll have to split up to retrieve them both before our time is up." Takuma nodded and Shōgo's gaze went from Takuma to Honami.
"The question is who goes with who..." Shōgo said. Before anybody could answer, Shōgo shook his head. "You two go together."
"Shōgo..." Honami said. The colorful boy raised his hand.
"It's clear I'm the weak link of the team. I don't have any real shinobi skill. I won't be able to help the team moving forward." he said.
"That's a lie. Your skill allowed us to take sensei by surprise. The only reason we didn't acquire the bells is because he is who he is." Takuma said, kneeling down in the middle of the group. "Here's what we'll do. Honami, you go with Shōgo. Your Byakugan will be able to cover all bases while Shōgo looks for the bells. If sensei is playing the role of the enemy, he'll go for the weakest first."
Honami looked at Takuma and Sasuke's eyes picked up traces of worry in her face.
"But, that'll mean that you're alone." she said. Takuma smiled at her, a wider one than he had given to Shōgo.
"I fight against my father almost every day. I know how he'll approach me and what tricks he might use against me. I'll be fine." he said. Sasuke smirked. Takuma had confidence befitting the bravado of a prepubescent boy attempting to impress a girl for the first time. At least he could somewhat back up his bluff. Or at least the other two kids thought so.
"Alright, then. We don't have a lot of time. Let's go." Takuma said. Quickly, the group of children disappeared into the forest. Sasuke sat still and silent in the trees, his mind still stuck on the revelation of Shōgo's brilliance. In his head, he imagined a shinobi with Shikamaru's intelligence and Naruto's annoying determination. The potential the boy had was staggering...and Naruto had chosen Sasuke to cultivate it.
Sasuke chose to test Honami's Byakugan first, darting through the trees to where she and Shōgo were. In the canopy, Sasuke's hawk-like eyes caught everything. They were doing their best to conceal themselves as they searched below on the forest floor. The Byakugan gave Honami nearly 360 degrees of vision, besides a small spot above the first thoracic vertebrae. Sasuke could easily hit that small window, but torturing his future students on a survival test didn't seem like something a true sensei would do.
Instead, Sasuke would scorch the forest.
He had the bell hidden in the tallest tree closest to the edges.
"Katon: Gōryūka no Jutsu!" Sasuke said, as a giant flame dragon's head burst from his mouth, ripping through the forest and burning the trees. Honami turned quickly and grabbed Shōgo.
"We have to move!" she yelled as she and the bright-colored boy raced away from the spreading fire. Sasuke watched as the genin darted away through the underbrush, heading towards the clearing. Shōgo recognized this quickly.
"No, stop! It's a trap! He's trying to draw us away from the bell and out into the clearing so that we'll be easier to pick off. We have to stay in the forest!" Shōgo said. Honami turned to him.
"It's a trap either way we go. That fire jutsu is going to rip through the vegetation. If we stay here..." Honami said.
You'll be trapped. Sasuke thought. The Uchiha quickly weaved together hand seals and let the chakra build up in his chest. "Katon: Gōryūka no Jutsu!" Another large flame dragon's head descended on the horrified faces of Sasuke's potential team. Honami pushed Shōgo behind her and got into a Gentle Fist stance.
"Stay back!" she yelled as she quickly span into a Kaiten, unleashing a chakra sphere that blew the fire of Sasuke's jutsu into the trees and away from her and Shōgo. She had successfully deflected the attack but she made a fatal mistake. She left her teammate open. Before Honami had finished her spin, Sasuke flickered behind the two students, pulling a metal cord out of his pouch and wrapping it around both of them. Honami and Shōgo crashed to the ground before they could blink. Shōgo struggled briefly before he looked up and saw Sasuke. The Uchiha loomed over the Academy students.
Sasuke looked down at the red-headed girl whose face twisted into a mix of the angry determination of her father and the sad dejection of her mother. Sasuke knew he couldn't be as harsh as he would be to his own children during training sessions in his corrections. Go easy on them. Konohamaru had said. Sasuke sighed. He would try.
"Honami, you did the right thing attempting to defend your teammate. However, you maintained your kaiten for too long and didn't take into account your opponent's superior speed. Before you haphazardly perform powerful and taxing jutsu, make sure you've gathered enough information about the enemy." Sasuke said. Honami dipped her head.
"Yes, Sasuke-sensei." she said. Sasuke turned to Shōgo and was prepared to speak to him before he felt the presence of another chakra blazing towards him. Fire balls rained from the canopy towards Sasuke, Honami and Shōgo. Quickly, Sasuke backed away into the clearing as the underbrush was engulfed in flame, seemingly catching Honami and Shōgo in it as well. The fire blocked Sasuke's view and he narrowed his eyes.
Katon: Hōsenka no Jutsu...the Phoenix Flower technique that unleashed a barrage of miniature fireballs at the opponent. It was the second jutsu that Sasuke had taught to Takuma. The aforementioned Uchiha boy leapt through the dissipating flames with his two squad mates. Both Shōgo and Honami were panting and sweating. Takuma was the only one who hadn't exhausted himself. Although it didn't benefit him or his team at this point. The time was up.
The sun bore down on the four figures in the field, casting its golden gaze upon them. The potential genin stood huddled in front of Sasuke, their faces fraught with anxiety as the Uchiha's emotionless onyx eyes looked over them. Inside his head, Sasuke tried to measure his expectations with reality.
In all truth, he had expected this group of genin to be as pitifully put together as he, Naruto and Sakura had initially been. He thought Takuma and Shōgo would be fighting mainly against each other, despite his son's passive and kind personality. He thought that Honami would simply stand back in awe of Takuma instead of actively taking part in the test. Instead, he got the exact opposite. Though they had only been officially for half an hour maximum, the three displayed a higher level of teamwork and cooperation than Sasuke had seen in some older, highly trained shinobi. It took a lot to impress Sasuke Uchiha...but today was one of the few occasions that he could actually admit to being just that.
The Uchiha took the last bell that he didn't place in a hiding spot off of his belt and held it in his hand. If any of the students had retrieved the second bell from the top of the tree, they would've revealed it by now.
"The three of you failed to retrieve the 'scroll' and let the enemy escape with the classified information. Therefore, you failed the mission." Sasuke said. As the three kids began to look crestfallen, Sasuke continued. "However...due to your teamwork, none of your comrades were killed. Leaked information about the village is one thing, but losing lives in the process is considered a failure in itself."
"So that means...?" Shōgo asked.
"Did we make it, Sasuke sensei?" Honami inquired. Takuma sat still as if he was waiting to hear his father say the words. Sasuke smirked.
"You did. Your level of teamwork and camaraderie not only surprised me, but it impressed me. Honami." Sasuke said, looking to the redhead. "You did well acting defensively on the behalf of your team." Sasuke looked to his son. "Takuma, you lead the attack without fear and you didn't falter in the face of a much stronger opponent. And Shōgo..." Sasuke said. The orange haired boy looked up and gulped.
"Yes, sensei?" he said.
"As the strategist for your team, you did extremely well. With enough training, you might make it as a shinobi." Sasuke said. Shōgo's face looked as if he was about to burst into tears at Sasuke's words. The Uchiha almost wanted to step back as the boy sniffled and wiped his eyes.
"I won't fail you, sensei!" Shōgo said, crying.
"Good. I'll see to it that none of you will. Tomorrow, you'll have a day off to recover from today's survival training. After that, we're taking missions so be prepared." Sasuke said, waving his hand. "Dismissed."
The new Team Sasuke stayed together for a while, talking each other about the survival training. Finally, Shōgo left and Honami and Takuma were left in the clearing. Sasuke watched as his son maneuvered nervously around Honami while the girl spoke excitedly about something. Finally, after the two shared words back and forth, the two of them parted ways with a hug. Takuma walked back over towards Sasuke, blushing and looking embarrassed.
Sasuke smirked and rubbed his son's shoulder as the two of them started to walk back towards home.
"You did very well today." Sasuke said as soon as the two of them were alone on the dirt path to their house. Takuma smiled modestly, although the pride of hearing Sasuke's compliment was evident on his face.
"Thank you, Father." he said before pausing and looking back up at Sasuke. The older Uchiha nodded.
"I'm proud of the fact that you worked so well with the others as a team. I never was one to be a team player." Sasuke said, smirking as he reminisced on the countless times he had taken charge and done things on his own. Takuma stared up with his inquisitive emerald eyes.
"Really?" the boy asked. Sasuke nodded again. He often forgot that his children saw him as the paragon of a shinobi when really he was everything but.
"Yes. I was prideful, even arrogant about my strength. I never really thought I needed anyone in my life to help me but I was wrong. One powerful shinobi capable of fighting an army is great." Sasuke said before looking down at his son. "But a team of powerful shinobi that can work well together is something to be feared. Remember that." Sasuke placed his hand on Takuma's head. "Make yourself strong. Make your brother and your sister strong. With that power, you'll rejuvenate our clan." Sasuke said.
"Yes, Father." Takuma replied, his green eyes shimmering with determination. Sasuke looked down at his eldest son...no, not his eldest. But his legitimate heir. He had plead the future of the Uchiha in this boy's hands yet the boy knew nothing about his clan, it's forefathers or even his father's real history. With Sosei coming, these facts were virtually unavoidable now.
Sasuke's feet led him to a crossroads where the path split to his estate and towards the village and the Hokage mansion. Takuma stood beside him and Sasuke could feel his son looking up at him.
"Father, aren't we still going home?" Takuma asked. Sasuke looked towards the path of his house and then towards the mansion. He wondered if Sosei and Naruto were still there with Sasuke's eldest demanding to know where his father had gone. Had he ran away to search the village for him? He didn't have a clue. Either way...Takuma was going to meet his older brother eventually. Sasuke had to tell him now.
"Yes..." Sasuke said. The two Uchiha stood at the crossroads, paused in the moment before Sasuke took a silent breath and spoke to his son. "Takuma, I have something to tell you...about me." he said. The boy looked up at him, curious.
"Okay." he replied. Sasuke closed his eyes and thought on what exactly he would say. "I told you about my tenure with Team 7 up until the end of the Chunin Exams...but there's more that followed that. After that, your uncle Itachi arrived to Konoha to not only attempt to capture the Kyuubi inside of Naruto for the organization he worked for, but to check on me. At the time, I still desired to kill him and when I failed, I grew greatly dissatisfied with my own power. So I left the village. Although Naruto attempted to bring me back, I beat him and escaped. Two years later, I eventually joined the same organization that Itachi was apart of after I had..." Sasuke said, stopping.
Takuma blinked. "What? What did you do?" Sasuke could only stare. He saw so much of Itachi in his son's visage, bar the green eyes, the two were practically identical. That very resemblance almost moved Sasuke to tears but he resisted and continued to speak.
"I killed him." he said. Sasuke could hear the flapping of birds as they took off in the canopy. Takuma looked up at Sasuke and the older Uchiha couldn't tell if his son was appalled or keenly interested.
"You...killed your own brother?" Takuma asked. "But why? Why you do something like that?" Sasuke noticed that his son had started to back away. Sasuke didn't reach out to him. He just continued to talk and hoped Takuma would hear him out.
"Years ago, the Uchiha clan had been planning to coup against Konoha. To prevent this, Itachi was given the mission to kill every member of the clan. He accepted only under the condition that I be allowed to survive. He did this so that eventually I would grow up and avenge our fallen clansmen and be seen as a hero." Sasuke said. Takuma seemed to calm down and relaxed. His face looked like he was processing the information Sasuke had just given him.
"Is that when you became the hero of Konoha...?" Takuma asked. Sasuke desperately wanted that to be the truth. For that to be the end of the horrors to come. But it was not.
"No...it took another year of hardships and pitfalls for me to get to that point. But, I didn't tell you this for nothing. I'm telling you this because you'll be meeting someone from my past." Sasuke said. Takuma looked up and blinked.
"Who?" he asked.
"Me." a voice said behind Sasuke and Takuma. Sasuke's eyes widened and he whirled around to see none other than Sosei. The boy stood at the crossroads, his arms folded and his shadow stretching in front of Takuma and Sasuke. Takuma looked up to Sasuke and then to Sosei. Briefly, the two boys stared at each other. All Sasuke could do was stand in the middle of his two sons.
"W-who...are you?" Takuma asked. He then looked up at Sasuke. "Father, who is this?"
"Can't you see...?" Sosei responded instead. "Can't you feel it, kid?" Sosei closed his eyes and reopened them. His scarlet Sharingan was bright in his eyes, even in the clear sunlight of the noonday sky. With balled fists and the arrogance of the Uchiha, the boy angrily declared, "I'm the eldest son of Sasuke Uchiha and Karin and the true heir of the Uchiha Clan. Sosei Uchiha!"