Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 2 Chapter 3 ( Chapter 6 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 2 Chapter 3 Notes: To answer the question (again), no. I will NOT be making this Ino\Naru. In the future, please stop asking. I will not bother responding to this request a third time.
Sakura rubbed her weary eyes, growing tired of reading ancient and nearly indecipherible texts on the medical applications of chakra. Somehow, when she asked to be the apprentice of the hokage, she hadn't cottoned on to the fact that most of her early work would be reading. Sakura liked to read -- that was partly how she turned out to be such an excellent student at the academy -- but the eyestrain caused by searching through page after page of faded texts, most filled with aged kanji she had only seen rarely if ever, was starting to get to her.
"I need a break," she muttered to herself. No-one heard her, of course, because the office she was in was completely empty, but it felt good to break the silence if nothing else.
She was sitting in the hokage's office -- at the hokage's desk, in fact -- because she had been given unprecedented access to texts which had been forbidden from ever leaving the hokage's offices for study. Tsunade, however, was out in the town, attending the semi-annual Hokage's Visitation to the Academy. Her guards, of course, went with her, and so did Shizune-san and all the other aides she had hired. Which had, of course, made it an ideal day for her to do textbook work, since she wasn't supposed to practice many of the techniques she was learning without someone present to supervise in an emergency. It was one thing to study on your own with most ninjitsu, but medical ninjitsu was not something to be trifled with. During the learning process, almost any medical technique could result in lethal danger for both the practitioner and the patient if any mistakes were made. Supervision cut the risk of death down to almost zero... although fortunately, it had been a moot point in Sakura's case. She had yet to make a single mistake in any of her practical sessions with medical ninjitsu.
Outside of the medical ninjitsu, she wasn't learning much, however. She was getting a little frustrated, since she didn't think medical ninjitsu would be enough to let her hold her own in the kind of fight she was expecting when she and Naruto went after Sasuke. She supposed that there might be some practical use for summoning slugs in battle, as well, but that was one thing she wasn't looking forward to practicing. She had the technique down perfectly, she just couldn't summon enough chakra to produce a slug of any reasonable size... and while she supposed a 'ninja slug' might not creep her out too much, all she was summoning so far were common, ordinary, garden-variety slugs... and those did creep her out.
"Are you just talking to yourself, or did you actually sense my presence?" came a voice from behind her.
Sakura jumped, startled, but then grinned slightly at her own foolishness. "I'm always talking to myself," she said, turning around to see who was there. Her instructions were to take any messages for the hokage and inform people who visited that they shouldn't expect a response before the next day, at the earliest.
There wasn't anyone there, however -- not that she could see. She glanced around, and started to get nervous -- if someone was hiding in the hokage's office, that could mean they were an assassin, and since she now knew of their presence.... Standing up, she moved into a defensive stance, glancing all around the room for any sign of motion. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something flick its way onto the desk, and spun back towards it to see who the intruder was.
"Yo," an oddly-colored and fairly large frog-like... thing said to her.
"Uh," was the extent of Sakura's reply.
"Is there some reason you're preparing for battle?" it said.
Sakura's eye twitched. "What are you?"
The toad frowned, then nodded in recollection. "Oh, that's right. You were unconscious for most of that battle. Hi, Sakura-chan -- I'm Gamakichi. Last I saw you, you were being held against a tree by shukaku's sand."
Sakura blinked. That meant... this toad was a witness to the battle with Gaara? But.... "That still doesn't explain who you are."
With a sigh, the toad lazilly crawled (for that was his only method for moving without jumping, and he didn't want to scare the poor girl again by jumping in front of her) to the center of the desk. "Sit down," he grumbled. "I'm not an enemy, here. I'm a ninja toad, summoned by Jiraiya, one of your 'legendary sannin,' to act as a mail courrier. I wish he'd use birds, dammit -- it took me nearly two weeks to get here. By the way, you really need to patrol the forests surrounding this place more often -- I didn't find a single one of the Konoha nin out there, but I did find a large number of pretty dangerout critters blocking me from my destination, here."
Sakura blinked, then smiled and sat down to talk to him more comfortably. "Oh, so you're like Pakkun, only you're a frog instead of a dog."
Gamakichi scratched his head, revealing a few scratches on his webbed hands. "Uh, oh, him. Yeah, I'm a bit like him, only better."
"So, are you allowed to give me the messages, or are they for someone else?" Sakura asked, squinting at the toad.
"Jiraiya said I could give it to either the hokage or to you," the toad muttered. "What's with that look on your face?"
"Oh, I'm an apprentice medi-nin, and I was trying to think of something I could do for your hands," Sakura explained.
Gamakichi, in the process of removing the letter from his pouch, blushed slightly. "Oh. Thank you."
Sakura took the letter with a smile. "No problem. I might not even know anything I can try, but give me a moment -- I have to be sure it's something I've been passed to do solo, first, because I'm forbidden from trying techniques the hokage hasn't cleared me for." She smirked, then grabbed his webbed foot. "I think I know one, now. So, you were there during the fight with Gaara? I don't remember Jiraiya being at that fight."
"Who said anything about Jiraiya being there?" Gamakichi sputtered. "That would have been a mess! No, that blond kid accidentally summoned me when he was trying for Gamabunta."
Sakura snorted. Even she knew about Gamabunta -- the legendary steed of the Fourth wasn't ignored in history classes, that was for sure. Still....
"Naruto should have known better. I mean, sure, he's gotten pretty strong, but trying to summon Gamabunta is way out of his league!" she chuckled.
Gamakichi scratched the top of his head with his free hand. "Uh, but he did summon Gamabunta. Gaara left him the ultimatum of beat him, or you would die... and then that kid got tough. Don't know where he got the energy, myself, but somehow he managed to call Gamabunta into the area."
Sakura stopped what she was doing and closed her eyes in pain. Naruto... just how badly have I ignored you? I never knew you could do something like that! Shaking her head, she sighed and got back to work. "Is that how he won?"
"Well, sort of," Gamakichi laughed. "That's how he managed to break that other kid out of his transformation into shukaku. The boss and I were too tired to stick around after that, though."
With a smile, Sakura released his hand. "There you go -- all done!"
The toad gave it a few trial shakes to test it out. "All right! Thanks a lot. Have you got the message?"
Sakura nodded, waving the envelope in front of her. "Yep, right here."
Gamakichi grinned. "Then my job here is done and I'll be on my way." He paused, then frowned at her. "By the way... that kid was fighting so hard for you, I was sure you were his, well," he held up his pinky. "Yet Jiraiya says you don't even give him the time of day. Don't you think the poor boy deserves a break?"
Sakura considered that for a moment. It was true that Naruto did so much for her, and she never seemed to be able to show him any appreciation for all of his hard work She sighed. "Well... I was in love with someone else at the time. I... well, I've just had my heart broken, recently, so I'm not really ready to think about that just yet. I agree, though -- he does deserve a break. I'm just not sure if I can be the one to give it to him."
The toad sighed. "Sorry -- didn't mean to bring up old wounds. See ya!" With a pop, he was gone.
Sakura sighed and looked at the envelope in her hand. It was unaddressed, but the toad had said it was either hers or the hokage's, so she figured it would be okay to open it. She pulled out several sheets of paper -- including a couple of what were obviously written in some sort of cipher -- and started looking at them. The first one was from Jiraiya to Tsunade, and while she hadn't intended to read it she caught herself skimming through it. She was a little startled, since it seemed to say to her that Naruto was giving up on Sasuke in order to fight Orochimaru. She wasn't going to hold Naruto to his 'promise of a lifetime,' if he didn't choose to keep it, but she was a bit disappointed in him.
Then she read Naruto's letter, and understood. Naruto wasn't giving up on Sasuke -- he was thinking tactically. Sasuke was in danger until Orochimaru was killed; he would rescue Sasuke, and keep his word, but it would have to wait. And he wanted her prepared to face Orochimaru, as well, which had her wondering...
Is it even possible for me to train enough to face one of the legendary sannin?
* * * * *
"Hi, Sakura-chan," Ino called in greeting from the kitchen, hearing the door open. "You're home early."
"I'm not my daughter," came the masculine reply. "I'm just dropping something off for her."
"Haruno-san!" Ino exclaimed, turning the fire cooking her oden down low so she could leave the kitchen. This was the first she'd seen of the man as she was away when Sakura moved in, and her father was a travelling merchant and hadn't been home when she was living there. "I'll take it to her room. Did she forget something?"
"No," the man refused. "I don't think that's a good idea. This is a box of the family scrolls, and its sealed against any but a Haruno opening it. I'm not certain how it works, but I think you might be hurt if you handled it wrong. Her mother sent it with me, since she was too busy to do so."
Ino nodded. "Okay, follow me then. Uh... did you hear about why I moved out?"
"And took my daughter with you?" His eyes glinted dangerously, but then he laughed. "Yeah, I heard. I suppose keeping sane is as good a reason as any. I'm not one of those people who hate Naruto -- you don't have to worry about that. I don't think quite as much of him as my wife does, though...."
Ino eyes locked on him. "What does that mean?"
The man shook his head. "I'm not supposed to say anything about it, but I'll put it this way: My wife would rather my daughter date Naruto than Sasuke -- in fact, she would be happy if her daughter dated Naruto. I'd rather she not date anyone."
Ino snorted. "Fat chance of that happening. Sakura's growing up to be a cutie, and if she gets over Sasuke then she'll be in a position to have boys eating out of her hands. I think Naruto'd be good for her, don't you?"
The Haruno man laughed. "It's not my decision any more -- you ninjas grow up too fast, so I'm not going to question it. I understand some of your clans arrange marriages and force their children into wedlock by the time they're fourteen... and I thank god I didn't marry into one of those clans!"
"I'm glad I wasn't born into one of them," Ino laughed. "They do have their reasons, however. The Hyuga 'cannot afford to let their blood be diluted,' so they try to make sure their children are married or at least committed before they're old enough to realize they have a choice. The Aburame have a hard time finding people who want to join their contract with the bugs, so they tend to adopt children to be raised as their own, and marry them into their own clan as early as possible. And so on, but I don't think I have to go on, do I?"
"The Uchiha used to, as well, before they were wiped out." A glint formed in his eyes. "They had their own reasons, but never shared them. Clan secrecy was too great, there, and I think that is what lead to their destruction."
"Huh?" Ino asked, confused.
Sakura's father just shook his head. "Never mind -- just old rumors. I must get going -- my wife is fixing dinner for me as we speak."
"Uh, okay, Haruno-san. I'll let Sakura-chan know you stopped by," Ino sighed, leading the man out the door before returning to her dinner pot. She was only back at work for a minute before she heard the door open again. "Did you forget something, Haruno-san?"
"No, I didn't forget anything. And why are you calling me Haruno-san?" A confused Sakura said, coming into the kitchen. "Smells good, whatever you're cooking."
"Oh! I thought you were your father," Ino explained. "He stopped by just a couple minutes ago to drop off some family scrolls or something for you."
"I've been expecting those," Sakura nodded, tasting the stewing liquid. "I'm sorry I missed him. Hmm... needs a touch of salt, I think."
"You like food saltier than I do," Ino complained. "Just use a salt shaker -- that's what it's there for."
"Yeah, yeah, I heard you the first six or seven times you said it," Sakura sniped, pulling out some bowls and silverware for their dinner. "Well, today was interesting."
"I'm sure those ancient scrolls you have to read are just fascinating," Ino trilled sarcastically.
"Actually, they're so hard to read even I'm finding them boring," she sighed. "But while I was reading, a ninja toad showed up with messages for me and the hokage."
Ino blinked. "A ninja... toad?"
"Well, surely you've heard of Gamabunta, right? This is part of his, ah, clan, I suppose," Sakura explained.
"Ah. So what was the message?" Ino asked, no longer quite as surprised. Now that she thought about it, she didn't just hear of Gamabunta -- she'd seen him (and Gamakichi, and other ninja toads as well) in Naruto's memories. She wondered if it was a sign of recovery that she hadn't remembered until just then. Shrugging, she started to serve the bowls for dinner.
"Not what was the message -- that was a bit interesting in itself, though I can't tell you about it -- but who was it from. Naruto and his sensei sent word to me that he's going to be unable to send letters for a while."
"How many lettes has he sent you, so far?" Ino asked.
"Two or three. They all read just about the same -- 'Still training my rasengan. The master's being a pervert again. I'm bored. Talk to you later.' This was the first one where he said anything significant, however," Sakura said. Sighing, she broke her chopsticks along with Ino, and they chorused "Itadakimasu!"
"Anything you can share?" Ino asked.
"Maybe," Sakura said, stirring her stew a bit and taking a bite. "Yeah, I knew it. Needs salt. Otherwise, this oden is pretty good."
Ino clenched her fist. "Look, just use the damned salt-shaker and stop... eh?"
Sakura was laughing. "Finally! I've been trying to get a rise out of you since your little mindwalk mishap. Hi, Ino-pig. It's been a while. I've missed you."
Ino gaped at her for a moment before joining in on the laughter. "Glad to be back, forehead girl! Now, let me know about this letter."
"Well... let's just say he and I are preparing for the same enemy," Sakura replied cautiously, "And it's not who we first thought it would be. The person we're going up against is way out of our league, I'm afraid, so our only chance is teamwork. And I'm very worried our teamwork is sorely lacking."
"What do you mean?" Ino asked, confused. "Don't forget -- I've seen every mission you've been on. I know just how tough some of the things you guys have done together has been."
"Then try to analyze those memories a little better," Sakura sighed. "Instead of ever helping Naruto work on teamwork, despite his begging me to on occasion, I never did. Now, I doubt we ever would have really worked on teamwork if I agreed -- I think he was trying to sneak in a date by calling it 'training,' just like I was trying to do for Sasuke -- but I might have at least managed to learn something while he tried to keep up the pretense."
"Come to think of it, I don't remember any teamwork meetings," Ino agreed, startled. "But... you guys worked so well together on the mission to Wave country that I... well, I assumed that they happened in one of those 'fuzzy' parts of my knowledge in his memory."
"That was all Naruto, actually," Sakura mused. "It's a shame he never got a chance to complete the chuunin exam. He probably wouldn't have managed the promotion -- he gets too hot-headed and really needs to grow up a bit, first -- but he would have really impressed some people, I think."
"He did impress some people," Ino snorted. "Like the entire Hyuuga clan, when he beat Neji. And just about all of us rookies, when he beat Kiba."
"No, I mean he would have really made some people realize he can think!" Sakura explained passionately. "He needs to mature first, but that doesn't mean that he hasn't got everything he needs to be a chuunin -- or even a jounin! He can take command of a situation and make make people better -- surely you've seen that, with Neji first and then Gaara."
"And Zabuza, don't forget," Ino sighed, looking into her stolen memories. "He actually took an S-rank criminal so bloodthirsty and cruel that he was known as a demon, and shamed him into performing what might be thought of as a final good deed to avenge a fallen comrade."
"I wasn't really paying much attention to that," Sakura admitted, blushing. "I thought Sasuke-kun was dead at the time, and I, uh..."
"Went all to pieces?"
"Yeah. Anyway, Naruto thinks, and that's what most people don't realize about him. He acts like an idiot half the time, but... well, he doesn't just make a thousand clones and strike without a plan like most people believe he does. He's got fierce determination, an instinctual and unbreakable will to win, and impressive stamina -- everyone notices that. And he does use his shadow clones too much... but that may not be an accurate impression. He uses them smartly most of the time, and when he doesn't, it's almost as if he's just trying to guage his opponent by running at him with hundreds of disposable people just like himself, trying every taijutsu trick he has to see if one of them will work. He uses them to hide what he's doing -- he isn't all that great in battlefield stealth, so instead he uses battlefield confusion to get his surprises ready. And while his temper gets the best of him sometimes, it frustrates me to know that I never noticed that before! He's a brilliant ninja -- he's got the hard work and determination that makes Rock Lee so good, and the skills that make people like Neji and Sasuke so threatening. And he can lead! He lead so well in that first battle with Zabuza... and I let the clowning around he did after that mission was over make me forget that fact."
Ino laughed. "You won't get any arguments from me, Sakura-chan. I noticed all those things, as well. But you're leading up to something -- what is it?"
"I need to work on teamwork with Naruto," Sakura sighed, letting go of the frustration she felt at her own obliviousness. "But Naruto isn't here. Ino-chan, this is a hard thing to ask of you... and I won't blame you if you say no... but I wonder if maybe you could try 'channelling' Naruto using your knowledge gained from your mindwalk, and help me learn teamwork with him."
Ino paused, stirring her food around in her bowl. This wasn't at all what she was expecting -- she had moved out with Sakura to get away from her memories of Naruto, not to use them. "I... I don't know. I'm not sure I can really help -- after all, I didn't really copy Naruto into my head, you know, I just saw his memories."
Sakura sighed, and pushed her food away. "I shouldn't have asked. I'm sorry."
"No," Ino protested, shaking her head. "Don't apologize. For one thing, I haven't said 'no' yet. I'm still trying to decide if maybe I should risk it -- I was thinking that maybe trying to escape from Naruto's memories is the wrong approach, and what I should be doing is learning to control them. This might help with that... but I'm not sure I want to take that chance. I have to know, Sakura-chan: Who is the enemy you are preparing to fight? I want to know... just how important it is for you to learn teamwork."
Sakura clenched her fist. "The traitor of the sannin, Orochimaru. He is the one who stole Sasuke-kun from us, and it is only by killing him that Sasuke can ever be rescued."
Ino stirred her oden once more, then pulled out a bite-sized chunk of beef and blew on it. "I'll do it on one condition," she said before chomping down on her food.
"What's that?"
Ino grinned. "Go out on a date with Naruto when he gets back -- a real one."
Sakura paused, blinking. Of all the things she thought Ino would ask of her, that was not it. Still... it was hardly a burden, going out on a date with a decent guy, was it? And as much as she would have refused to admit it just a few months ago, Naruto was much better then just 'decent.' "Deal. But only if he pays!"
Ino laughed, and the two resumed dinner, bringing the conversation around to a much more lighthearted one. They both put what they had agreed to aside for the moment, and silently agreed to just enjoy their evening together. They had plenty of time to worry about the future later.