Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 2 Chapter 5 ( Chapter 8 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 2 Notes: To respond to some reviews, I was NOT Jiraiya-bashing in the last chapter. I was, however, using his weakness (and every character in Naruto has them) in order to set up the next time you see him... when a, ah, frustrated Jiraiya starts showing just how much of a slave-driver he can be (as the manga directs). As far as the complexity of the water dragon technique goes... I'm not certain how complex it really is. The first time we see it, we have someone who's trying to fool a sharingan user, so I figured Zabuza might have been using a number of un-needed seals to try and confuse. In future anime episodes where we see the technique performed, it doesn't take nearly as long to launch. *shrug* Perhaps I could have chosen a different technique (it didn't matter which technique I was teaching Naruto at that point, so long as it was one he didn't already know yet he wouldn't object to learning... and so long as it might involve chakra) but perhaps not. If you think it was too complex for him to learn that quickly, fine -- just imagine it was something else. Also, I don't think I've ever read Foxhound, so any similarities between Ino's techniques in that fic and in this one are entirely coincidental. As far as what the 'Number 3 package' is, well, that'll come up in the future (possibly in part during Chapter 6, but more likely in Volume 3 and beyond).
Chapter 5
Sakura grinned as she looked across at Ino. To her surprise, she had found that her best training days were days like these -- when Tsunade had given her some time for 'independent study,' leaving her free to -- for example -- read her family scrolls... or to spar with an opponent. And Ino, she found, was probably the best opponent she could have. Tsunade had given her, and was still giving her, impressive skills and powerful techniques through her medical ninjitsu and her 'chakra-enhanced' strength. She would often grin, knowing that in time -- employing the techniques Tsunade used to remain youthful and healthy -- she'd probably start growing her bust out some, too. That, apparently, was a side effect of her training... but one which, apparently, would take years to start developing. Which was a shame -- she was hoping to have the enhanced bust when she next saw Naruto -- she wanted to shock him, to have him see her more as a woman. She wasn't quite sure why -- it wasn't like she was in love with the boy, like she had been with Sasuke -- but she wanted to be able to knock his socks off. She'd even gone so far as to update her wardrobe a bit, including some rather flashy boots and a nice pair of cut-off gloves to make her look that much more dangerous.
But right now, that wasn't important. Tsunade was helping her feel better about herself, helping her look better, and helping her learn better techniques... but Ino was helping her learn how to apply what she knew. The scrolls were helping her take her own natural abilities to the next level. And the rest of her time... well, it would often be split among a lot of things. Her mother was actually dusting the rust off her fighting skills to provide Sakura with some additional help, she had been volunteering at the hospital to put her medical ninjitsu to good use, and... well, she'd even gotten to the point where she'd liked the ramen at Ichiraku's. When the cook had heard of Naruto's request in his letter, he'd almost cried -- apparently, the old man and his daughter, Ayame, really cared for him... they talked about how they'd come to look at the boy, maybe not as a son, but as a favorite nephew or cousin... and they were deeply touched by his concern.
Ino smirked. "Well, Sakura, it looks like you've got some things on your mind. Maybe I should just peak in there for a second, hmm?"
Sakura raised one hand, waving her off. "Time out. I'm still trying to decide what I want to work on most, today."
An evil grin appeared on the other girl's face. "How about slug training? I do so enjoy the look of delight on your face when you work on that."
Sakura grimmaced. Truthfully, she didn't have enough chakra to perform a decent summon technique. Her control was absolutely perfect, but even perfect control wouldn't compensate for a situation where there just wasn't enough energy present... and so she knew just how much of a waste of time it was, finally. When she talked to Tsunade about that, her master had said, "Well, Sakura, it's about time you realized that. So, when do you want to start learning some decent chakra-building techniques?" Since then, she hadn't tried a single summon... and was starting to actually miss the training. After all, Tsunade's view of a 'decent' chakra-building technique wasn't exactly a bed of roses.
"I'm not ready for that, yet," Sakura explained. "But how about some teamwork exercises?"
Ino grinned. "What is 'Naruto' facing, this time?"
The teamwork exercises were fairly simple, usually -- and were really helping Ino cope with her mindwalking's backlash. Sakura would pose a situation, and then Ino would practice control over her stolen memories and psyche to predict Naruto's reaction to it. It was almost as if she was learning how Naruto fought while they practiced... and Ino actually felt herself getting stronger because of it. She had even learned Naruto's kage bushin just from exploring his memories... (the Rasengan was another story -- she understood the principle easily enough, but in practice she found herself physically incapable of it. The amount of chakra required was more then she could muster, and she found that even trying to concentrate that much together would result in injury as her own chakra was burning her hands to the point of uselessness. It was after Sakura's fifth time rebuilding her hands from the pulp they had become that she finally gave it up, deciding that, much like the chidori was for Naruto, this was a technique she simply would never be able to learn). After hearing what Naruto would do, Sakura would explain how she would react as well -- occasionally giving a demonstration if it was something Ino was unfamiliar with -- and then predicted the reaction of their enemy. Ino would, in turn, predict Naruto's movements, and then have her own say in the enemy's movement. It wasn't all verbal, either -- once they had worked out what they would do, they actually tried it.
Not on each other, of course, but through a shared-mind technique Sakura had found in her family scrolls. It turned out that, among other things her scrolls had which shocked her (including one sealed scroll she had yet to open, labeled 'Mangekyou.' She wanted to read it, but she was holding off until a time when Ino wasn't around to open it), she had learned that her family and Ino's family had been very close partners for generations -- in fact, since before Konoha's birth. Centuries before, the two clans had been the leaders of a now-extinct nation's entire shinobi force, one defending the nation's secrets (Sakura's family), the other extracting it (Ino's). Therefore, there were numerous techniques listed in one of the scrolls that would only work when partnered with a Yamanaka clan member, like Ino. That scroll they shared... and discovered an interesting method of practicing for battle. By linking their minds, they could actually see with their own 'eyes' just how the battle would go, in much clearer detail and with much more accuracy then their own imaginations would allow. The enemy would sometimes act unexpectedly, as he was given limited freedom of movement as he was conjured by both of their concepts, and so they found that they could work better together than they ever believed.
Sometimes, Ino would do this as herself -- she and Sakura were both trying to use this time to improve -- but more often Ino put Naruto's psyche into the simulation and used herself as the villain (occasionally employing techniques she didn't even know how to use... but that was unimportant, as what only mattered in the simulation was the appearance and not the result).
"I want to know what Naruto can do against a certain technique," Sakura sighed, looking down. "It... well, we're going up against Orochimaru himself when he gets back. Orochimaru used this technique against me and Sasuke when we were seperated during the Chuunin exam, and... well, let's just say it might be part of the reason Sasuke-kun decided to join that bastard."
Ino frowned. "What is the technique? If Naruto hasn't seen it, then..."
"I can project it into my mind and share it with you," Sakura explained. "But be careful with it -- it'll shock you."
A grimace appeared on the blond's face. "Well, my psyche's already shot to hell. Might as well...."
They instituted the seal, and suddenly Ino found herself in the Forest of Death again, as a very creepy man stared down at her and Sasuke-kun. The creep, who Ino realized was Orochimaru in disguise, swallowed a scroll with a snake-like tongue.
"Now let's begin... the battle for each others scrolls," Orochimaru said. "With our lives on the line."
Suddenly, an image of her own death appeared, a dagger in her forehead. She fell to her knees, unable to move... fear. She was locked in place by fear, and she couldn't be anything but afraid.
A mental attack... not a genjustsu, but a mental attack, Ino realized with the conscious part of her mind. She could deal with that sort of attack fairly easily, herself, given the nature of her family's techniques... but she wasn't trying to win the fight as herself. Mentally, she projected Naruto's psyche and mentality into her position, and felt the results... and realized something.
Sakura, on the outside watching in, was at first concerned when Ino fell to her knees. She could see the abject horror of the gaze Ino revealed, and wondered if she had looked like that when she had been the victim of the same technique. She was quite startled, therefore, when Ino started laughing.
"Oh, this wouldn't work on Naruto at all," Ino laughed. "It's a projection of fear so great that a person cannot move... but that doesn't matter to Naruto. He feels fear, and has in fact been frozen in fear before -- you recall his first ever real battle during that mission to Wave country, right? But the counter is, well, to know how to move despite your fears. Naruto has done that -- he did that when he first faced Zabuza, and now he knows to never be frozen in fear again. So he won't."
Sakura blinked. "Oh."
"I can counter it fairly easily, by the way," Ino explained. "Because it is entirely a mental attack. I think you should be able to, as well... one part of your Overlay Persona should be able to keep functioning, even if the other is shut down by fear, and the functioning part should be able to help you move until the other part starts working, again."
"Wow -- I guess this bloodline trait of mine isn't quite so useless, after all," Sakura said, then shrugged. "I suppose I've been learning that more and more as I read the family scrolls, but I really need to figure out how to use it better. My great great grandfather was able to use it in many ingenius ways... I have only just begun learning the paired techniques our two families shared. Unless you plan to come with us when Naruto and I go after Orochimaru, that's not going to be much help."
Ino nodded. "I don't think I'm ready for that. In fact, I'm not even really willing to go out on D-rank missions right now. I... right now, if I went into battle, I'd be confused as to who I was -- Yamanaka Ino or Uzumaki Naruto... or some wierd fusion of both."
"Naruto sucks at D-rank missions," Sakura laughed. "His abilities and intelligence seem to increase with the difficulty of the challenge he faces. If you start thinking you're him during one, you'd better just quit right there before you spoil it all."
Ino blinked, reviewing her own memories of Naruto. "Actually... that's not a bad assessment of him. He expects easy things to be easy, and so doesn't apply himself as well as he should, and gets easily frustrated when he can't do things he expects to be that easy. But he's getting better at it, the more mature he grows... and he's growing, Sakura. He'll be even more grown when you see him again, so you'd better be ready for it. He's going to surprise you."
Sakura remembered Naruto as he departed to 'rescue' Sasuke from the sound, and then in the hospital afterwords when he insisted he wasn't done, and that he would keep his word. She shook her head. "No... In failure or success, I don't think I'll ever be surprised by him again."
* * * * *
Sakura was flying backwards from the force of the blow. She thought that her speed was finally enough to dodge all of the punches instead of having to block them, but apparently she was mistaken... and due to that miscalculation, she had been hit hard. However, her Overlay Persona kept her from being too distracted -- she now knew what to do. Ignoring the terrible bruising pain she felt slamming through the concrete wall, she managed to land on her feet and raise her guard. Only after she saw that her opponent wasn't moving to launch another attack was she able to take the time to wipe the blood from her mouth -- that wasn't good; it probably meant internal bleeding, and Sakura was too busy to take care of that at the moment.
"Hold!" came Tsunade's command. "I think that's enough for today. Come over here and let me take care of your wounds -- that way your chakra won't be wiped out."
Coughing up a little more blood, Sakura nodded. She stumbled a bit, stepping over the crumbled remains of the wall she had been thrown through, but outside of that showed none of the weakness she felt. Tsunade met her halfway, green healing chakra pushing out from her hands and soothing Sakura's aching guts.
"That was a good hit," Sakura said, taking a shuddering breath.
"I think I should congratulate you," Tsunade said. "You survived a full power shot to the heart from yours truly. I didn't even mean to throw that powerful a hit, and I'm sorry I did."
Sakura glared at the woman she was now calling 'master.' "Tsunade-shishou... I don't believe that it wasn't intentional for a second."
"You think I was trying to kill you?" Tsunade asked, surprised.
"No. I think you were trying to test me. You've made 'mistakes' like this every day this week, and while few of them had as much risk to be as lethal as this one, it's pretty obvious that these aren't just mistakes," Sakura pointed out.
Tsunade sighed. "For the record, I wasn't aiming at your heart. I wasn't expecting you to dodge the way you did, and I was trying to get your shoulder. But yes, the 'full power' thing was intentional, and so were all the other 'accidents' this week."
"Well, why are you doing them?" Sakura demanded. "You're quite plainly setting me up for something. What is it?"
Tsunade finished with her healing technique and grabbed the girl by the sleeve. "Well, I was thinking of your future. I'm considering promoting you to chuunin."
"Promoting me?!" Sakura exclaimed. "But... but I'm not ready to be promoted. And even if I were, well, I don't have a team, or--"
"You are ready," Tsunade interrupted. "If you weren't, you wouldn't be alive right now -- I wouldn't have been able to repair your heart at all. As far as not having a team goes... surely you don't think we prevent people from being promoted just because their team gets broken up?"
Sakura blinked. "But... you need a three man team to participate in the chuunin exam. Are you going to assign me random partners or something?"
"No, no, nothing like that," Tsunade said. "You really only need one partner -- and no, you won't be fighting them. Just find someone who you work well with, and bring them along... because there are other ways of testing to become a chuunin then taking the chuunin exam."
"How?" Sakura asked, now looking curious.
"Simple," Tsunade replied, smiling. "There are four ways to become a chuunin in Konoha. The best known of them, though also the hardest path, is the Chuunin exam. A person in your position must participate in the chuunin exam at least once, and get past the first part of the exam, in order to participate in any of the alternate methods... but as long as you do that, and your sensei believes that you have 'learned the lessons' the chuunin exam is supposed to teach, you can try a different way."
"A person in my position?" Sakura asked, a little confused.
"Well, how to explain," Tsunade sighed. "I understand you were given the 'bell test' by Kakashi, and he passed you because he believed you would work together. You know, however, that many of your classmates from that year were sent back to the academy. Well, what do you think they do at the academy, anyway? They've already qualified as genin, so studying the cadet-level techniques would be pointless. Instead, they are retrained. Not every ninja in Konoha goes out on missions, you know -- people must stick around to act in administrative functions, serve as honor guards, prepare special drugs and foods, make weapons, and so forth. The basics are taught in cadet school, yes, but when someone 'fails' the bell test, or its equivelent, they are sent back to learn a specialty -- honor guard, food and medicine, smithing, repair and maintenence, sewing uniforms, etc. They, too, have a system of promotion, one which also gives them 'genin, chuunin, jounin' ranks. And, in time of war, they make an excellent auxilliary force to defend the town while the 'mission-capable' ninja head out to fight. When your mother got pregnant with you, she initially switched from active duty to the auxilliary as a weaponsmith, and recieved her promotion to jounin through an administrative test. In the end, though, she found she didn't even have the time and energy for that, so she retired and lived on a pension... but just about every one of her co-workers were those who failed the bell test."
"Ah," Sakura said, comprehension dawning. "So, I can't take that exam if I want to remain an active kunoichi. There were two other methods, you said?"
"Yes," Tsunade replied. "One is a special tournament with no outsiders present -- the candidates can skip the first and second parts of the exam, and just duke it out to prove to a panel that they have what it takes to be a chuunin. Most teams which are split apart by having only one or two members promoted participate, and usually everyone who is considered 'eligible' will have a pass rubber-stamped for them, because by that point the Jounin has felt the genin has learned what he must learn from the rest of the exam, and the facts bear him out, so repeating those tests seems silly. The final method, however, is essentially a 'battlefield promotion.' Someone is given an 'acting-chuunin' rank for a particular assignment of c-rank or better. If they succeed in accomplishing the mission, the promotion is made permanent. If they fail, they're usually either dead or busted back to gennin for a minimum of six months." She grinned. "I've got a mission for you, and I sure hope I won't have to bust you back to genin afterwards."
Sakura blinked. "A mission? But my training--"
"I'll be coming with you," Tsunade explained. "This mission is an A-rank mission. You and a partner will be given 'acting-chuunin' status, and you both will accompany as my bodyguards and escorts during a mission where I'll be making an official state visit to another country. I won't be allowed to take more then two, so you'd better be able to work well with your partner -- all of our lives are counting on it."
Sakura blinked. "Why me? And... where are we going?"
"To the 'neutral' country of Wave. Actually, Wave is an ally of ours, but the treaty hasn't been signed yet -- that's one half of why we're going there. The other half is for me to meet with the raikage -- your sensei, Kakashi, has been on a successful diplomatic mission to the hidden village of Cloud, and they have agreed to an official treaty of neutrality to end the cold war we have been in for... well, my entire lifetime, come to think of it -- winning the last war with them was what gave my grandfather enough prestige to be named the first hokage." Tsunade paused. "So... will you do it?"
Sakura hesitated. "I... Tsunade-shishou, I'm not ready to become a chuunin. It isn't that I don't think I have the skills, any more -- you have taught me well, and while I might not be in the 'elite' just yet, I wouldn't necessarily feel overmatched if I were in a fight with someone who wasn't a genin, themselves."
"You'd stand a fair shot against most of the jounin I know," Tsunade commented.
"It's just... I feel wrong not doing this without my team. Naruto... he really deserves this promotion more than I do. And Sasuke-kun--"
Tsunade's eyes were softening to the sympathetic when Sakura mentioned the blond-haired youth who she felt as strongly about as if he were her own son. When Sasuke was mentioned, however, she put her foot down -- literally. The force of the blow shattered the concrete they were standing on, and shook buildings for almost a mile around with seismic shock. Sakura, unprepared for the sudden loss of flooring, fell backwards, staring at her master in horror.
"I said you are ready to become a chuunin. Do not hold back because one of your teammates has become a traitor. Because you said that... Sakura, my student, you are no longer allowed to back out of this mission. Either you become an acting-chuunin and take it -- and either succeed or die trying -- or you quit being a ninja right now. Which is it?" the older woman snapped, standing over her fallen student.
Uh... I guess Tsunade-shishou isn't quite as flexible as the Third, is she? I remember Naruto arguing for a 'c-rank' mission with the Third and winning... but I think when he gets back I'd better warn him not to cross this hokage. "Uh, I guess I'll do it."
"Good. Now, to business. Who do you trust, among the genin, to join me on this expedition?"
Sakura paused to collect herself, trying desperately to gather her wits. "If it were just about their fighting abilities, I'd pick either Rock Lee or Hyuga Neji. Probably Neji, since he's the better fighter. But this mission... it has to be about more then a person's fighting abilities, doesn't it?"
"No, it doesn't," Tsunade agreed.
"Well, then," Sakura said hesitantly. "I have an idea, but I'm not sure she'll go for it. See, I've been working with her a lot, recently, but she's currently on medical leave...."
Cooking dinner over a stove at their home, Yamanake Ino sneezed. Hmm, she thought. Someone must be talking about me....
* * * * *
Notes: The mission to Wave Country, sadly, will have to wait for another chapter. I was hoping to cover everything in this, but half-way through I changed my mind as to how to promote Sakura-chan (the original, and badly overused, idea was the tournament mentioned above). I've already got ideas to attach the mission to certain subplots I already had in mind, so it isn't like I'm going to be putting in what is little more than a filler chapter (although, come to think of it, that's exactly what it is... but I think I can use it to show a certain bit of character development I was intending to show at the tournament, instead). I also decided NOT to open the Mangekyou scroll just yet (that was supposed to be a kicker), but instead will reserve it for later. So, those of you Ino-centric fans, you're getting a bit of a bonus with Sakura and Ino's journey in V2 Chapter 7, since I wasn't planning on having her enter the tournament. It'll work out for the best, just trust me on that one... er, please trust me. I know what I'm doing, really! (Eep). However, you'll have to wait -- V2 Chapter 6 will deal with Naruto's training, an encounter with a group of actual Rock Nin, and Naruto winning the hearts and minds of yet more strangers he's fighting against. (Expect a slight delay, though -- I have to reread some stuff from the manga first, because there's a few details I forgot that I don't want to ask about because they may become chapter spoilers if I recall something correctly. If I DON'T recall something correctly, I'm going to have to compensate, and that may take even longer, but don't worry -- I expect to finish Vol. 2 by the end of the week at the latest)