Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 1 Chapter 2 ( Chapter 2 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Note: It's been a while since I posted to ff.net. I hadn't realized how badly they've screwed up the ability to punctuate summaries. Ack! I'll fix the summary when I have time so that the required pause is seen after 'belong.'
To say Ino was apalled would be an understatement. One of the earliest memories Naruto had was of having rocks thrown at him because he brought a girl -- one she recognized as a very young TenTen -- a ball she'd lost over a fence. Screams of "Stay away from her, you monster!" shocked her -- just why were people so angry at him? She could feel the same confusing coming from Naruto, as he recieved similar treatment from many people she saw as she explored his childhood. Her own parents -- people she looked up to as being the nicest people in the world -- were stone throwers as well.
He'd cried a lot as a child, but apparently showed some talent in taijutsu during the elementary school martial arts festivals -- which really were the selection exams for the Ninja Academy. He won entry at the age of seven, and he had been so excited. Finally, someone liked something about him! Finally, there was hope that someone might not throw stones at him just for existing! Finally....
Naruto, Ino realized, had a rude shock when he discovered on the first day of class that children often learned things from their parents. The Ninja Academy was a two year program, and most first-years were ten years old. Those first-years had learned that Naruto was nothing to be tolerated, something to be shunned and -- if he got too close -- hurt.
Through it all, he endured. Somehow, the phrase 'never give up' entered his mind, and he never did give up. However, that philosophy made little difference in how people treated him.
One day, after his teacher -- the one he had before Iruka-sensei -- physically threw him out of the building (from the second floor) because he'd raised his hand to say that the person next to him had stolen his textbook, he ran off crying. His 'don't give up' mantra was still coursing threw his head -- Ino could hear it, repeating itself time and time again -- but that didn't stop him from the need for emotional release.
He found himself in a park -- on a beautiful day, Ino noted -- and was stopped. An elderly man in a funny hat had grabbed him. An elderly man he'd seen before only in the stone faces on the monuments around town. He didn't know anything about the man, though it was obvious to Ino who it was, but the man had asked him why he was crying and tried to comfort him.
For one, shining moment, Naruto thought that maybe he'd found someone who cared about him. "Why?" He had asked, crying. "Why do you care about me? Everyone else hates me! I'm supposed to be hated, aren't I?"
Ino felt heartbroken at that cry, but the old man had just sighed. "Well, I'm the hokage after all. It's my job to put my life on the line, so that everyone can be content in life. And if anyone needs help to be content, Naruto-chan, it's you."
Naruto had sniffled, thinking this meant the only reason the old man had helped him was because it was his job. He'd encountered that type of person, before -- the people who gave him his apartment (where he had no supervision or care of any kind) and the few pennies a day he had to buy food with, for example. But then he noticed, as he walked with the old man through the garden, another person who was in tears. The hokage didn't try to help her, as he'd helped him. That made him wonder.
"Why aren't you helping her?" he'd asked. "After all, she certainly doesn't seem content in life!"
"No hokage -- no human being alive or dead -- can make everyone happy all of the time," the old man explained. "It is my job just to help those in most need."
"Well, I'm fine now," Naruto had lied. He wasn't fine, but the girl looked as if she felt worse then he did at the moment. "So go help her."
Again, the old man sighed. "I'm afraid I don't know how to help that one. I've tried to make her happy, but her friends all tease her and nothing an old man like me can do or say will help her out of that rut. She needs to find help from somewhere else -- a good hokage knows when to let others do what he cannot."
"I'd find a way to help her, if I were hokage!" Naruto argued. "So you'd better do it to, or... or..."
The Hokage was amused. "Or what, Naruto-chan?"
"Or I'll become hokage and do it for you!" he declared, finally.
The Hokage looked down at him with an odd smile, as if he'd heard those words before. "It's a long, hard journey to become hokage. It requires training, and patience. The hokage must master over a thousand ninja techniques, and earn the respect and recognition of everyone in all of Konoha. A hokage must know and understand the eight principles that are the cornerstones of all knowledge of the shinobi: Virtue, Justice, Ceremony, Wisdom, Loyalty, Faithfulness, Prudence, and Filial Piety. Wanting it isn't all it takes -- the hokage is the greatest shinobi in town, and everybody has the highest respect for the name of hokage."
Indeed, hearing all of what was required to be a hokage, Naruto did find himself respecting the old man. He realized there would be no short cuts -- and he wouldn't have time to help the little girl who was crying over there if he wanted to become hokage. But he wanted to help that girl -- no-one should be crying like that! Only he had to cry like that, and that was how he felt about it. Everyone hated him for a reason, and that reason had to be so that no-one else would have to be sad. That was what he'd always told himself, and why he'd always refused to give up. This, though, was hard.
"Then I'll become even greater then the hokage! I'll become the greatest hokage ever!" He turned to see the crying pink-haired girl, and the blond Ino realized with a start was herself who was approaching her to comfort her, and swore an oath. "And you, pink-haired girl, you I will make sure is the happiest of all, so that I can make up for not helping you in this moment!"
And so Naruto returned to the ninja school, and stuck it out. However, his teachers didn't understand about his goal of becoming hokage -- they all hated him, and threw things at him, and refused to help him at all. He never recovered his textbook, and so fell way behind his classmates. His taijutsu -- the taijutsu he was so proud of for winning him entry into the academy -- suffered, as no-one would spar with him or tell him what to do. So, he tried training on his own... but training on your own was rarely very good without at least someone to judge yourself against.
Somehow, he'd managed to scrape by the first year of his Ninja Academy days without flunking completely, but then he stalled. The textbook he never was able to replace continued to haunt him, as teachers wouldn't explain anything and not having any book made it impossible to figure out what to do without their help. So, he did the only training he could remember from his first year, just to try to keep up: he did training to boost his stamina and chakra reserves for his ninjitsu, and continued his lone taijutsu practice, adding some shuriken practice with that. He didn't understand the concept of the shuriken, though, so progress was very slow in that area, and the fact that there were almost a dozen different types of shuriken which all required different methods of throwing didn't help.
It was as he spent these two years building his chakra reserves that Ino saw how powerful Naruto truly was. And he did, in a way, find some taijutsu practice partners after all -- he would cut class (as he wasn't learning anything anyway -- he could maybe figure out how to perform a henge from the lectures he'd heard, but it looked awful compared to what it should look like; he'd also tried the replacement technique, and it seemed he was successful, but... well, as it relied on a person's henge talent, he never really did a good job on that either) and go look for that pink-haired girl whose name he now knew was Sakura. He couldn't do much for her -- after all, while it was starting to get through his head that he wasn't supposed to be hated, people just did anyway, he still didn't feel like approaching her. He was definitely developing a crush on Sakura, though -- Ino could feel it through her mental connection. In fact, it was a bit more of a crush, despite the fact he was so young.
The one thing he could do for her, however, was take out the people who'd continuously pick on Sakura. He wasn't the best fighter ever, but he was just barely shinobi-level... which meant he was far above most of the bullies who tended to pick on girls like Sakura. She remembered, now, that Sakura had decided to try for the ninja academy largely because the bullies had stopped bothering her when a 'ninja' had beaten them all up. Both she and Ino had assumed the 'ninja' was Uchiha Sasuke, the genius ninja who had only been held back from graduating because of some 'family' problem, or something like that. The details were hushed up pretty quick, but Sasuke was definitely the boy every girl wanted as their savior back then.
How foolish girls like her and Sakura could be at that age, Ino realized.
Things didn't get better for Naruto until people his own age showed up in class. They took his failures as just the antics of a class clown, and he played up on it to get them to help him. Iruka was now his sensei, and he actually seemed to care a little about Naruto, but by now the boy was so jaded that he couldn't trust the teacher even enough to ask for a replacement textbook.
Instead, he used his status as class clown to make a few... well, he didn't think of them as friends, since they all insulted him and picked on him for being an 'idiot,' but perhaps 'running buddies' was the right word. His devotion to Sakura had actually earned him a chance to talk to someone who held him no malice -- her own teammate, Shikamaru. One of the running buddies alongside Kiba and Chouji.
"Why do you keep throwing yourself at that girl?" Shikamaru had said. "Girls are so troublesome, just like the women they become."
"I want to make her happy," Naruto explained. "I want to see her smile, and have fun, and be happy. I'd like it if she went out with me, too -- I think I could make her even happier if she'd agree to go on a date with me, you know? But as long as she was happy, I'd be happy."
"Feh. Whatever," Shikamaru snorted. "So how much of your class clowning is really just joking around, and how much is you really being bad?"
Naruto felt trapped. He could only cover himself by pretending to be the class clown -- he couldn't afford to be thought of as being really that bad! But... he didn't have a choice, if he wanted to learn. He had to admit he was bad.
"I... well, I've never learned any of the techniques. The teachers won't help me."
Shikamaru grimmaced at that. "How troublesome. What about your textbook?"
"It was stolen from me my first year, and none of my teachers will let me replace it," Naruto explained.
"Geez! You are a mess, aren't you? Well, here -- at least let me show you how to do the henge properly!"
Of course, Naruto only used that technique to improve his status as a class clown, using it to create the 'sexy no jutsu' that really startled Iruka when he first saw it.
Iruka was definitely trying to reach him, but Naruto couldn't see it; wouldn't even tell him about the missing textbook, because the last teacher he mentioned that to also threw him out of the building (from the third floor, this time). He did, however, turn his reputation as a class clown into a learning experience. You can't exactly beat up people to get them to laugh at you, so his one talent -- taijutsu -- continued to suffer. You can, however, use pranks as an excuse for learning how to escape, and hide, and camouflage yourself. Or to use the replacement technique when caught. Or to explain why he wanted a bunch of ninja to chase him to help improve his speed and these evasion skills...
It wasn't until he'd vandalized the Hokage Monument that Iruka finally broke through to him, by promising to buy him some ramen. It was the first time Naruto would have been rewarded for anything he did -- even for cleaning up his messes -- and so he recognized the man as his first friend. In point of fact, Shikamaru was probably more deserving of the title, but he wasn't exactly sure of the other boys feelings on the subject as he never really seemed interested in anything Naruto wanted to do.
Then she saw the incident which changed Naruto's life forever -- where he finally learned why everyone hated him.
It astounded Ino to see that he could trash a chuunin before he'd even officially graduated from the academy, but he had. The amount of chakra used to make all of the kage bushins (a technique he had somehow blocked her from memorizing for herself) would have astounded her, at any other moment, but that wasn't even in sight of the more remarkable revelation.
Naruto carried inside him the Kyuubi. The nine-tailed kitsune of legend that had killed the Fourth and nearly destroyed Konoha almost fourteen-years beforehand (well, twelve years beforehand, from the perspective of Naruto's memories). That was the 'emerging bloodline limit' mentioned in the medical reports. That was the source of the red chakra. That was why everyone -- even her parents -- despised him, shunned him, threw rocks at him as a little boy...
And Ino was ashamed. For the first time ever, she was ashamed of her parents, and that... hurt. How could they treat such an innocent little boy like that, just because he'd SAVED THEIR LIVES as a baby? Didn't they think about that?
Her anger caused her to skip a track in Naruto's memories, but she caught enough of his past for Gaara's request... and now understood it more than ever. She watched the battle with Gaara, herself, just to confirm her beliefs... that Gaara wanted to know how Naruto had been raised just like him, and didn't go on that killing rampage.
Then she turned to the battle at the waterfall... and winced. She felt it when Sasuke impaled him with his chidori. She could feel Naruto's chakra literally burning himself as he struggled to use that much more power he needed to beat the boy.
And then she realized why Naruto had lied in his report. He wasn't trying to cover up the fact that he'd been beaten, or even that he and Sasuke had fought.
He was trying to cover up the fact that, to keep the tears out of Sakura's eyes, he hadn't thrown the deathblow he'd needed to win the fight. Instead, with the last slash of his kyuubi-powered claws as rasengen and chidori clashed for power, he decided to leave the message that he could have won.
By scratching Sasuke's forehead protector.
* * * * *
"Ino?" Tsunade's concerned eyes appeared in front of her as she slowly regained consciousness. "Are you okay, Ino?"
"Yeah," she answered groggily. "I... I'll write you that report. It... I can't put it into words right now."
"Just answer me one question," Tsunade asked. "Why did Naruto lie?"
Ino puzzled that over in her own mind. Why did he lie? The answer was easy to think of, really -- he couldn't stand Sakura's tears at the thought of Sasuke's death, and so he resigned himself to being killed by the boy he thought of as his best friend and best rival. He was ashamed of having lived without having succeeded, and that was what he was truly trying to deal with.
So, she summed it up as best she could. "I think it's survivor's guilt."
"What does that mean?" Tsunade asked, incredulous.
"I'll send you my report," Ino answered. "I think it'll answer... all of your questions."
* * * * *
The only people Ino MIGHT have been willing to talk to, on the way home, were those people who hadn't treated Naruto like toxic waste all his life. That included Shikamaru, Iruka, Kakashi, Gai, Lee, Kiba, and possibly even Sakura. After all, the one thing she could see from Naruto's memories -- Sakura never really seemed to hate him for being him, just for being an idiot. That, he could live with. He was proud to be able to do what he did as an idiot (although Ino was having second thoughts as to whether that was a proper description for the boy) and if that irritated Sakura, he'd been okay with that. She got to release her anger and frustration out on him, and so he goaded her into it by clowning around so much... but, whenever Sakura pulled her head out of Sasuke's ass long enough to notice him, she was actually quite nice to Naruto. Even Ino remembered the few times she'd seen Sakura and Naruto together when one of them had to fight -- Sakura protected him during the second part of the chuunin exam and cheered him on in the preliminaries and first round of the third part. That, and some of the scrambled flashes from the 'skipped tracks' she's missed in Naruto's memory showed Sakura prominantly, often in a good light... except when alongside Sasuke.
For once, she really hated that Uchiha boy.
She retreated to her room the moment she got home, storming upstairs and slamming the door. When called to dinner, she refused to come down. Instead, she claimed she was ill, and used the time to write the report for Tsunade.
Ino tried to avoid people for days after turning in her report, including her parents. She started becoming a regular at the Ichiraku Ramen stand, one of the few businesses in the town which had ever treated Naruto with respect. During the time she was isolating herself from everyone, Ino thought. She thought about Naruto's life, and what it might have been that allowed him to remain sane. She thought about herself, remembering how she thought the easiest person to fight in the chuunin exam would have been Naruto... and wondered if maybe she'd been one of the problems he'd had to deal with. She hoped not.
She couldn't avoid people forever, however. She did have to get back to her life, and go back to work in the flower shop. And she had to face her parents some time. She figured the best time was at dinner... and the best time to confront them with her new knowledge would be after dinner.
* * * * *
Tsunade sat in the office as Gaara continued reading the censored report she had allowed him to see. The complete report contained things so classified that even most trusted Konoha ninjas shouldn't be allowed to see it, so a foriegn ninja couldn't see the thing unedited. She suspected Gaara would be able to read between the lines for what she cut out, though, where it mattered to him.
"And he refuses to give up, eh?" the sand ninja muses. "Interesting."
"Naruto is a very interesting boy, that much is certain," Tsunade agreed, stretching. Perhaps it was just because she hadn't been around during the first invasion, when Gaara was her enemy, but she lacked the instinctual fear most of her Konoha comrades felt in his presence. She could sense an evil power in him, yes, but he seemed to have it under control... much like Naruto, himself, kept an evil power under his control. Although, with Naruto, she could never feel that evil power... even when it manifested itself visibly. The report of his battle with Sasuke, however, left her wondering if maybe the kyuubi's power would have felt evil to those nearby.
"I have enough information, here," Gaara sighed, standing up and returning the report to Tsunade. "Thank you, and thank the mindwalker who did this for me. It appears he fails to lose himself, because he has a goal in mind. The goal to become hokage is not merely a childish dream, as many think, but is a desire to justify the suffering he has undergone... much as I once believed my own justification for existence was to kill everyone other than myself."
Tsunade, for the first time, felt a little unnerved by the sand ninja she had summoned for help. "Er...."
"His justification for existence is certainly more noble then my old one. And it helps me know what I must do to replace that old one." Gaara strode out of the room. At the door, he paused. "When next we meet, I will address you as Hokage-dono."
With that, he left.
It took Tsunade a while to realize it, but in the end she knew that she'd just seen the creation of the new Kazekage in her office that moment.
* * * * *
One more chapter to go in Volume One (it's a short one, and Vol. 2 is even shorter as planned). Then we move on past the Ino-centric moments into the lives of the slightly more relevant characters.