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I've been kicking my personal head-canon around for a couple years and not writing any of it down, and I figured this would be a good exercise to get my hand back in the game. This is also a writing style I've seen back and forth around the internet, and it looked interesting.

This is very rough, so feel free to point out any inconsistencies or problems.

Theater of War canon, not necessarily sequential.

1: The day he decided to be a ninja was not a happy day for Hiroshi's family. After all, they were still technically refugees from the war with Hidden Stone - what was the point if they were just going to be dragged back into it?

Hiroshi wouldn't hear of it, though. He even had a signed poster from Namikaze Minato's induction ceremony, when he became the Fourth Hokage. The Yellow Flash was the coolest, and he was going to grow up to be just like him.

As a last-ditch effort to dissuade Hiroshi from joining the Academy, they told him about their friend Eita, an Iwagakure shinobi who was killed by the Yellow Flash. It was because of this that they were almost denied immigration to Konoha, and they still had to spend a few sessions with Interrogation before they were allowed in.

What they weren't expecting was Hiroshi's resolve. He took this news as seriously as he could, and calmly told his parents that he would train as a ninja specifically to keep that from ever happening again.

Hiroshi's application was signed and submitted the next day.

2: Hiroshi always loved stories. He would read his favorite comics over and over, until the binding frayed and his beloved books fell apart. This didn't dissuade him, though; he would tell the stories over and over again to his parents, his friends at school, even the neighbors if he was able to hold their attention long enough.

It took a noticeable upswing the day Kaede-sensei discussed the concept of genjutsu at school. After speaking at length about the theory - complemented, to Hiroshi's dismay, by bar graphs and numbers on the chalkboard - the instructor formed a hand seal and suddenly, the classroom disappeared and they were on a beach. The sun shone, warming Hiroshi's face as his eyes widened in delight. Here was a whole new way to tell his stories!

His first attempt at genjutsu a month later involved a masked hero, two pandas, and a bucket of cheese. It earned him high marks for the day and a concerned note home to his parents.

3: Kurohisa Gendou never realized what an asset a genin team would be until he first took them to the ANBU Intelligence office. His own sensei, Morino Ibiki, narrowed his eyes at the presence of children in his Interrogation Room, but the kids were polite and respectful - if more out of fear of their sensei than an adherence to protocols.

Nonetheless, the two jounin were analyzing the alibi of a suspected Orochimaru sympathizer in Grass Country when they were interrupted.

"That's not right," said Hiroshi, tilting his head quizzically. "The Grass Snakes don't have a stadium in the capital, it's in a village not far from Kusagakure."

Ibiki narrowed his eyes and glared at the genin. "What?"

Gendou sighed and took hold of Hiroshi's arm as the genin started to back away, issuing rapid-fire apologies. "Hiroshi-kun, it is not inappropriate to share knowledge. Ibiki-san was simply asking for clarification."

Ibiki glared at his former student, but nodded a confirmation. "Speak up, kid. What's that about the stadium?"

"Um, you said that the prisoner couldn't have been at the meeting 'cause he was in the capital watching the playoffs, right? The stadium isn't there, and they lost that game anyway."

"How do you know this?"

Hiroshi looked around nervously. " mother was swearing at the TV last week. She always gets riled up during the playoffs, she's a big fan."

The jounin both stared as Hiroshi backed away, bowing carefully.

"...interesting team you've got there," said Ibiki, with a feral grin on his face. "They might do well in Intelligence if you train them up right."

Gendou said nothing. Only a slight incline of his head showed his acknowledgement of his sensei's words.

4: He never thought he stood out in any way. With his brown hair, brown eyes, average height, average build, and polite exterior, he always blended into the background - especially compared to the more recognizable ninja of Konoha, such as the Uchiha and the Hyuuga.

Even so, he was called out specifically in the final test of the chuunin exam in Hidden Sand. By name, no less.

The first time was by a dark-haired Suna kunoichi, who he fought in his first round of the tournament.

"So you're Hiroshi-kun, huh?" The girl twirled a slightly oversized shuriken on her finger as she sized him up. "I've heard things about you. You won't catch me that easily!"

"What have you heard?" Hiroshi called, glancing quickly back to the scoreboard. Yokuchi Ao, he thought. Never seen her in my life.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" she asked, before disappearing in a burst of sand.

The fight didn't last terribly long, all things considered; Hiroshi was a competent mid-range fighter, and Ao kept alternating between snagging him with a wire-strung shuriken and closing in on a blind spot. By the time she realized that he had caught her in a genjutsu (which, in truth, resulted in her wasting attacks on Hiroshi-shaped dunes and shrubbery for the better part of ten minutes), it was too late, and he burst out of an illusory boulder to pin her to the ground.

It didn't explain the wriggle in her step as she left the arena, however. Nor the slow wink when he returned to the combatants' balcony.

5:The second person to call him out by name had a much more incendiary reaction.

"Traitor!" yelled the teen across the arena. His weapons were in his hands instantly, and the setting sun reflected off the stone-engraved hitai-ate. Hiroshi barely had time to dodge as the Iwa-nin launched a series of stone shards at him.

As a Genjutsu Specialist, Hiroshi was accustomed to keeping out of danger, and every ounce of his evasion training was being put to the test. "I don't know what you're talking about!" he yelled as he fused a stretch of sand together to throw up a rock wall in front of him. "I've never seen you before!"

"The Moriyama family lived in Hidden Stone for years, and now you've given Konoha all our secrets!" The enraged shinobi suddenly burst through the rock wall and thrust a pair of swords in Hiroshi's face. "You're one security leak that I'm going to destroy, and the Tsuchikage will reward me for it!"

The swords passed harmlessly over Hiroshi's head as he sunk into the ground. Using an underground movement jutsu was tricky, he knew, but it gave him time to prepare. The Iwa-nin was enraged, and Hiroshi knew that if he could exploit that, his accuracy would fail and leave room for a counter-attack. The rules were out the window, after all; his life was on the line, and if he didn't put this asshole down fast, he'd regret it.

The Doton jutsu gave him time to think, but he still needed to act quickly. If he didn't surface for air in two minutes, he wouldn't be coming up at all, and likely the Iwa-nin knew that.

"Gonna hide, Moriyama?" The taunting voice was muffled from the sand, but Hiroshi could hear the warning tones in it. "Well, if I can't play with you, then I think there's a section of the audience I can take a shot at."

Hiroshi's blood turned to ice. His parents were there, cheering him on. The first time they had expressed any interest in his chosen career path, and they were being targeted by a madman.

He was already forming seals as he rose out of the sand. "Doton: Doryuudan no Jutsu!"

The Iwa-nin smirked as he launched a brace of kunai towards the stands.

In a flash, Hiroshi flared his chakra and pulled. The stone missiles curved mid-air to intercept the kunai, knocking them off their trajectory and sending them into a harmless tumble towards the arena walls.

"Too late!" shouted the Iwa-nin, dropping in front of Hiroshi. His fist filled Hiroshi's vision, and then it went dark.

6: He was surprised to wake up back on the balcony, surrounded by his teammates... and his parents.

"Hey, hey, he's awake," Kensuke drawled, squatting down beside his friend. "What the hell were you thinking, idiot? Stone Dragon Missiles? I'm surprised you didn't drop dead from chakra exhaustion!"

Hiroshi groaned and held his pounding head as he sat up. "Didn't have time... to think."

"Pff. That's obvious." Kensuke snorted, then offered Hiroshi a hand up.

"So what--oof!" Hiroshi's words cut off as a blond tornado struck him and enveloped him in a rib-crushing hug. "Hotaru...can't breathe..."

"Sorry," said Hotaru, letting go and backing away.

"What happened?" Hiroshi continued.

"The judges came down to pull him off you," Kensuke said, leaning back on the railing. "He was raving, Hiroshi. What did you do to him?"

"I wish I knew."

7: "By the way," Kensuke said, turning back to the arena. "Who was that Suna chick last round?"


"You know, the one with the yo-yo shuriken. You notice what she was doing?"


"Dude, she was totally hitting on you. You mean you didn't notice?"


8: When Hiroshi graduated from the Academy, his parents took him out to dinner. They still didn't approve of his path, but they still supported their son, so it was a celebration of an accomplishment.

When Hiroshi and his team were all promoted in their first Chuunin Exam, his parents took all three of them out to dinner. By then, they had accepted Hiroshi's lifestyle, and were more than just a little proud of him.

When his mother announced she was going to have another child, Hiroshi took them out to dinner. The increased mission difficulty meant higher pay, after all, and so the Moriyama family went out on the town. They hadn't been able to go out for a nice, dress-up style dinner in a while, and Hiroshi felt it was appropriate.

The look on their faces when he offered to kidnap the best doctors in the world was certainly well worth it.

9: Hiroshi wasn't sure what to expect from a baby sister. He wasn't full of the stereotypical "only child no longer being the center of attention" woes. He was sixteen, after all, and shinobi to boot. He was fully comfortable with his own place in the family, and knew that any addition was a blessing from the gods.

No, what was worrying him was how his new baby sister would see him. Would he be the aloof ninja, rarely home because of difficult missions? Would he be the protective big brother? Would she see him as a nuisance?

He asked his teammates about it one day at Ichiraku.

"My sister is my best friend," said Hotaru, nodding emphatically. "I don't see her all that often, she's training in medical jutsu at the hospital, so if I see her a lot then something went seriously wrong. But we talk every night, and compare notes."

"Notes on what?" Hiroshi asked.

"Oh, you know. Fashion, boys, training, the autumn line of shuriken rolling out of Kumogakure..."

Kensuke wasn't all that helpful, either.

"I actually don't spend time with my cousins that much," he said over a mouthful of ramen. "Hana-chan's busy with the vetinary hospital, and Aunt Tsume has her hands full with little Kiba. He's walking now, getting into everything, and she's still working on paper-training him."

Hiroshi was almost positive Kensuke was messing with him.


The expectations weighed down on him as he made his way to the hospital afterwards. There was a lot riding on his shoulders; it was his duty to be the best brother he could possibly be.

His wandering path took him past the Budding Leaf Children's Home, the village's orphanage. Hiroshi slowed his pace, allowing the joyful screams and laughter of the children wash over him. He stopped at the fence and watched the kids run around in games of tag, jump rope, and a couple boys in a strange form of dancing charades (he eventually figured they were "playing ninja" once he recognized an awkward attempt at forming ninjutsu seals).

A loud (and very distinctive) shout grabbed Hiroshi's attention. A blond tornado rushed past the fence, not even glancing at Hiroshi as he barrelled past, pursued by the nearly-hysterical matron.

Hiroshi chuckled at the tableau, and continued towards the hospital. These were kids without family, yet Konoha would be their family for them. Even the Kyuubi brat had someone to look after him, in his own way. They were all hoping to be ninjas when they grew up, probably hoping to keep other kids from having to deal with the same kind of loss and loneliness.

It was what both the Sandaime and the Yondaime Hokages were always saying; shinobi may be trained for killing, but true ninja fought to protect the land and people important to them.

Hiroshi made it to the hospital with a much lighter heart. Who'd have thought the fox-brat would have answered his question for him?

10: "I'm going to teach Yukiko to be a ninja," Hiroshi said, holding his finger out to the tiny bundle in his mother's arms.

Misato and Keitaro shared a Look. They must have been expecting this, Hiroshi thought. Which didn't matter, because he had prepared an entire litany on the way to the hospital, and he was going to persuade them if his life depended on it.

"Of course you should," Misato said, as Hiroshi opened his mouth to start his diatribe. "It would give her a leg up to attend the Academy with a reasonable base knowledge, after all."

"Do you think you could teach her that rock pillar thing?" added Keitaro.

Hiroshi stared at his parents, dumbfounded.

11: "Moriyama Hiroshi, you explain yourself right now!"

Hiroshi stood in the doorway, frozen in shock. The inside of his parents' house was covered in mud, from the walls to the impressive dripping streaks on the ceiling. In the center of it, eight-year-old Yukiko stood with her hands in a snake seal and a dazzling smile that would put Maito Gai to shame. It was even brighter in the stark contrast of the rest of her appearance - the majority of the mud, it seemed, was plastered to her face and clothes.

"I guess," Hiroshi started, flinching slightly at the killing intent radiating from his mother, "that maybe I should have specified ideal practice locations for that. Such as, not inside the house."

"That would have been best."

12: Genjutsu had always been Hiroshi's strong point. There was something about the subtle intricacies of it, the attention to detail that appealed to him. It was, in his opinion, the most useful of the ninja arts - achieve your mission objectives secretly, with stealth, illusion, and misdirection, and nobody had to fight at all.

He was most dismayed, then, when the first attempt at genjutsu that kicked off the Sand/Sound War was dispelled, that the rest was solved through fists and explosions.

Sure, it meant that Konoha had a much easier time repelling the invading forces, and he wasn't going to complain about that, but there was such a thing as elegance.

13: It was no surprise to anyone when Nara Shikamaru was promoted after the battle. He had performed in his exam with cunning and grace, and showed the most aptitude at on-the-fly battlefield tactics.

What did surprise Hiroshi was that, when Kakashi's genin returned to Konoha after their pursuit of Sabaku no Gaara, the other favored contestant was kicking himself for his failures. Uchiha Sasuke was the village's Golden Child, and the hope of most of the higher-ranked shinobi was for him to be another Itachi.

For a given value of Itachi, that is.

14: It didn't surprise Hiroshi to hear that Uzumaki Naruto was the one to take down Sabaku no Gaara. From his stellar performance in the Exams, it was clear that the kid had grown, and his determination to protect Konoha - despite the majority of it shunning him for most of his life - spoke to his potential for being one of the most influential shinobi of his generation.

As Hiroshi watched the bloody and bruised Naruto carried to the hospital, he realized that he was watching Namikaze Minato's Legacy, as the Third Hokage had always claimed him to be.

15: What surprised Hiroshi was his feeling of relief at realizing that Sarutobi had been right all along.

16: "Gendou-sensei just sent word," Kensuke said, dropping into the seat beside Hiroshi. "They tallied up all the dead from Hidden Sand, and your girlfriend's not there."

"What?" Hiroshi dropped his chopsticks. "What are you talking about?"

Kensuke gave him a Look. "You know how you kept searching through all the faces of the Suna ambush? Where you didn't think Hotaru and I saw?"

Hiroshi just stared.

"Anyway, we knew you were looking for that yo-yo shuriken chick, so we checked with Gendou-sensei and he said he'd go over the body count for you."

Old man Teuchi shared an expression with his daughter. Years of serving the forces of Konohagakure had given the experience to know when heated arguments were just a bunch of hot air, and when it was time to take the expensive bottles off the shelves. The two of them surreptitiously made their way to the back of their ramen stand, out of the way of any potential collateral damage.

Hiroshi's face and voice were calm, but the tone belied the quiet danger lurking beneath. "You spoke to Gendou-sensei for me."

Kensuke shrugged. "It was that or have you moping about for weeks after Hokage-sama's service." He took a big scoop of his own food. "Look, Hiro-kun, we know you were looking for her. Hotaru thinks it's sweet, really. But you have to look at the big picture."

"And what," Hiroshi said, his eyes flashing, "is the 'big picture'?"

Kensuke took his time, ignoring the warning signs around him. "Get over yourself. The world's a big place, and we're negotiating a peace treaty with Suna. If you're going to go after this girl, do it. Don't hint around the subject and mope."

Kensuke finished his ramen quietly and stood up, leaving money on the counter. "Take some advice, man. Talk to us. We're your friends, right? Which means we know you better than you think we do. You trust us in the field, so trust us back at base, too. We've earned that."

The worst part was, Hiroshi realized as he sat there, stewing, was there was nothing he could dispute about any of it.

The next day, a messenger bird left Konoha, heading for the Wind Country.

17: Pain's assault on Konoha surprised everyone. Wholesale destruction and confusion spread throughout the streets as the Animal Path's summoned beasts began their rampage.

Most of the genin were assigned to escort civilians to the shelters. Team Gendou spread out to assist them - they weren't a heavy-combat team, after all, and subtlety would be better served to keep the escaping citizens of Konoha safe. Hiroshi made a beeline for his sister's team, who were escorting a group to the mountains, making their way to the panic room behind the Hokage Monument.

That was why Hiroshi swore when he saw a black cloak blocking their path. The chaos surrounding the bulky man only served to contrast his quiet calm. "Where is the Nine-Tails Jinchuuriki?" he asked, in almost a whisper.

Yukiko reached for her sword, but Hiroshi grabbed her hand to stop her. "What's a Jinchuuriki?" he shouted, motioning everyone behind him to stay silent.

"I do not have time for games," replied the pierced body. "If you will not tell me the location of Uzumaki Naruto, I will kill you."

"What's to keep you from killing us if we do tell you?" said Yukiko with a derisive snort.

"I will ask you one last time," said Pain, ignoring the sarcasm. "Where is Uzumaki Naruto? Tell me the truth."

Hiroshi's hands flashed in the seals for a blanketing genjutsu effect. General overlays were more difficult than tying an illusion to a specific chakra source, but they also had the benefit of being harder to see through, not to mention harder to dispel. As the only jounin in the group, he was the only one who could even delay Pain while his sister's team led the civilians away.

He concentrated, ignoring the steady footsteps of Pain. "Hey, Yukiko, remember this one? Ninpou: Sātīnkani no Jutsu!"

Pain's footsteps stopped as he took in his new surroundings. The wrecked streets around them had flickered and were replaced by a scenic beach landscape. The setting sun glowed a deep red-orange, with its dying embers reflecting off the crashing waves. To his credit, he didn't react when jazzy music filtered from an unknown source, or when beach balls bounced in from all directions.

His eyebrow may have raised a fraction when a family of giant crabs started dancing, however.

Hiroshi shared a grin with Yukiko. Thirteen Crabs had been one of her favorite genjutsus growing up, one that she had asked Hiroshi to perform countless times. He also loved using the particularly strange ones in combat situations - few things unnerved enemies than stumbling upon a tea ceremony peformed by bears.

The crabs interposed themselves between Pain and the escaping civilians, giving them a few moments cover. "Yukiko, Hanabi, get these people out of here. I'll draw him away, give you enough time."


"That's an order," Hiroshi snapped. "It's your duty to protect the civilians. It's my duty to protect you. Get going!"

Yukiko hesitated, her hand still on her sheathed sword.


There was no arguing with that tone of voice, and Hiroshi knew she would listen. A quick whisper of "Byakugan!" confirmed that Hanabi, at least, would take the lead in escorting the civilians out of danger - the Hyuuga bloodline was adept at seeing through genjutsu, friendly and enemy alike.

As his sister's team led the citizens away, Hiroshi grabbed a full spread of shuriken and melted into the shadows.

18: Everything Hiroshi did was blocked. Every attack he launched was dodged, or thrust aside, or simply avoided. He launched kunai at the back of Pain's head, and the big man simply stepped to the right. He shot needle-sharp stone spires out of the ground, and Pain simply wasn't there.

The fight had been going on for a full ten minutes, and he hadn't laid a single scratch on the black cloak. Keeping up the genjutsu while leaping all over the battlefield and launching multiple simultaneous attacks was taking its toll, and he was tiring.

Finally, the snake-like tendrils of mud he was using to ensnare Pain's legs reached their mark...and the big man just stepped out of them.

"Why do you persist in protecting Uzumaki?" Pain asked, in his infuriatingly quiet voice. "Keeping the information from me will only bring more pain."

Hiroshi cursed. He was running dangerously low on chakra, and his long-range attacks just weren't working. He only had two options. If he cut and run, Pain would only follow Yukiko and Hanabi back to the Monument Shelter. He'd be dooming dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent civilians to die, not including sending this monster after his sister.

Right. That just left the other option. He gripped his last kunai and launched himself at his pierced opponent.

Right away, he knew he wasn't going to miss. The big man turned slowly towards him and stretched out his hand, as if to intercept. Hiroshi ducked his head and rolled out of the way, slashing at the man's face.

His sudden stop, mid-air, gave him pause. The arm had flashed downwards to meet him, and Hiroshi was being hauled up into the air by an enormous muscled arm.

There was a brief struggle, but Hiroshi froze when a huge masked face rose out of the ground beside Pain. The monstrous jaws opened, and Hiroshi felt a strong suction, pulling him towards the gaping jaws. This didn't make any sense to him, because he was still clamped securely in the vise-like grip of Pain, who hadn't moved from his spot.

"One final time. Where is the Nine-Tails Jinchuuriki?" Pain narrowed his eyes. "I must warn you, lying to me would be... unwise."

The jaws opened wider, and Hiroshi felt the pull increase. "Uzumaki... Naruto..."


"Travelling... entertainers. Learning... Kabuki." Hiroshi spat in Pain's face. "You won't... get it out of me, you bastard."

Pain's expression didn't change. "Unfortunate. I have no further use for you."

The monstrous jaws opened impossibly wide. Hiroshi felt himself being sucked into the gaping chasm, even as the fingers tightened around his neck. Yukiko, please have made it to the vault, please hurry. I'm sorry, Yukiko, I'm so sor

19: There was darkness. There was light. Hiroshi stood on the edge between them, one foot in each.

Shinobi were ruthless killing machines. Their power and abilities were used to slaughter, to maim and defile and murder.

Shinobi were powerful. Their strengths were tied to their bonds with their teammates, their family and friends, and their village. Shinobi have sworn sacred duties to uphold, even as they provide a mercenary force to keep their villages afloat.

Darkness on one hand. Light on the other. Hiroshi straddled the line.


Everyone stood at the line between darkness and light, Hiroshi realized. Shinobi especially, but everyone did. Even mundane civilians had petty thoughts, and fought to protect those they loved. Some had embraced the darkness within them, which is where Akatsuki and Orochimaru found strength. Some, however, had stood by the light, such as the Hokages, preceding and current.

(hiroshi come on get up)

All things considered, his life hadn't been so bad. He had straddled the line, as everyone did, but the difference lay in which direction he was facing. He turned, as he had in life, towards the light, and felt the warmth on his face.

(hiroshi wake up)

Something struck his face, and he opened his eyes. The light was blinding, but he could just barely make out a face. The face was blurred, but he could tell it looked worried.

"Hiroshi! There you are. We've been waiting for you."

His vision cleared somewhat, and the face (that he had been expecting to be what exactly?) beamed at him from underneath red fang tattoos. "Hey, Hotaru! Gendou-sensei! Hiroshi's okay!"

Hiroshi sat up. Or at least, he tried to sit up. The shooting pains throughout his entire body slowed him down, but he managed to force himself somewhat upright. "What... what happened? I thought I was dead."

As his team materialized around him, Kensuke's face faltered. He glanced at Hotaru and Gendou, but found no help there. "Come on, guys, level with me. What happened?"

"Well," said Hotaru carefully, "you were dead. For a bit."

Hiroshi sighed. "For a couple minutes, right? Thank you, CPR. So glad they teach the basics when medical jutsu fail."

The shared glance between Kensuke and Hotaru made him pause.

Kensuke broke the silence first. "Actually, it was a bit longer than that."

"How much longer?" Hiroshi raised his voice against the silence that met him. "How much longer?"

"About three hours."

If a bucket of ice water had been dumped down Hiroshi's spine, he would have notice the sudden warmth. "You're kidding me."

Gendou-sensei shook his head. "Not at all. Konohagakure suffered casualties of nearly 90% in the attack, most of them occurring when Pain unleashed his large-scale repulsion attack." A black-gloved hand indicated the semi-circular depression where Konoha used to be. "The pain you are feeling is left over from your corpse being crushed in the jutsu. Somehow, those killed in the attack have been brought back. We have spent the last ten minutes repairing the damage enough for you to wake up."

When Hiroshi found his voice, it still sounded to him as if it was coming from somewhere very far away. "How...what happened? How is this possible?"

Gendou gestured towards the bordering forest, past the rim of the crater. Hatake Kakashi was walking back, supporting the orange-clad Naruto on his shoulder. "You may want to ask him."

20: Ten years old and trembling with anxiety, Moriyama Hiroshi approached the front doors of the Academy, and for the fourth time, turned away. True, he had wanted this, almost his entire life, but it was daunting. How could he have thought he was ready for this?

He had the Yondaime's poster on his wall. He had watched ANBU and the Uchiha Military Police patrolling the village. Konoha's shinobi were the greatest, and he was just an immigrant kid from Earth Country.

He tried walking up to the door again, and once again turned away at the last second. But this time, someone was behind him, watching.


Hiroshi looked up into warm blue eyes and a disarming smile. His mouth fell open slightly in surprise, and he bowed as deep as he could.

"Come on now, none of that. Stand up tall, you're a proud shinobi of Konoha."

"Sorry, Hokage-sama," Hiroshi said, straightening up.

The Fourth Hokage perched himself on a stretch of wooden fence next to the walkway. "First day jitters, huh? I remember my first day at the Academy. It was hectic, and I didn't know anyone there. I thought I'd die of embarassment!" He chuckled, reaching behind his blond hair to scratch the back of his head.

Hiroshi nodded.

"What's your name, kid?"

"Moriyama Hiroshi, Hokage-sama."

The Fourth Hokage raised his eyebrows. "Oh, so you're from the family that moved during the war with Hidden Stone."

Hiroshi bowed his head, uncomfortable.

"Well, I'm not going to tell you what to do, Hiroshi-kun, but if you decide to walk through those doors, you'll definitely be happy with yourself afterwards. You may even make some new friends."

Hiroshi turned to face the Academy building. Already, in the adjacent grassy field, children were grouping up and having fun. He noticed a quiet blond girl sitting still and watching a pair of butterflies on a rose bush. Off to the side, a scraggly-haired boy was wrestling with a dog.

He turned back to the Hokage. "What if I'm not good enough? My family aren't ninjas. I haven't had the clan teachings that most kids have. They'll probably hate me when they find out I'm from Iwagakure."

The Hokage had a peculiar expression on his face for a moment, but he sighed and reached down to ruffle Hiroshi's hair. "Most of that won't matter, Hiroshi-kun. There's a reason you wanted to be a ninja in the first place, right?"

Hiroshi nodded. "I want to protect my family."

The Hokage beamed. "Well, it's clear to me, so I might as well let you in on a little secret." He leaned in close. "If you keep that attitude, I think you'll find that you'll surprise even yourself."
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