Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 2 ( Chapter 12 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Author's Notes: YES. Naruto and Sakura are done 'rescuing' Gaara (assuming they do) from the current arc. I thought I made that clear. Either that, or they're done with whatever they try to do after ascertaining that no, there is no way to restore Gaara to life after what Akatsuki has done to him. I THOUGHT I made that perfectly clear, the last four times I mentioned that this volume deals with events AFTER the current manga arc is finished. Okay, enough of that -- I won't be repeating it again. Ages: Naruto is 16. Sakura is 16. Ino is 16. Other characters who will be appearing than you may want to know the ages of will appear in closing notes.
Chapter 2
Naruto was startled, upon reporting back from their mission to the hokage's office -- Sakura by his side -- to see that not only was Tsunade present, but so were Kakashi, Asuma, Kurenei, Jiraiya, Gai, Ebisu, and several other jounin he barely recognized. Sakura recognized this -- she had been to a similar meeting just about one year beforehand. She smiled proudly, but hid her face so as to not give away anything.
"I'm not going to ask for a verbal report," Tsunade said, looking up at Naruto with a twinkle in her eye. "Kakashi-san has already been kind enough to give one. I do hope, however, you'll have the written report ready for me before you go on your next mission."
"My next mission is going to the Sound village to rescue Sasuke," Naruto grumbled, not knowing what was going on.
"No, it isn't, Naruto," Jiraiya replied.
A cracking sound was heard as Naruto's fingers clenched into fists. "Excuse me? We've only got a couple months to get him -- you all know that! I told you I wasn't going to give up on him, ero-sennin! I'm not! It--"
"I'm not asking you to," his master sighed. "Look, Naruto -- it probably wouldn't have been a good idea to go now, anyway. You may be prepared, but you couldn't go alone -- you'd need to take Sakura, and probably a bunch of other teammates to counter their greater numbers, for you'd be going up against an entire army. And right now, while Sakura may have improved beyond anyone's expectations these past couple of years, she's not ready to stand toe-to-toe with her most likely opponent -- Kabuto. I suspect you would have gone, anyway... but it's pointless to argue the matter, now, anyway. Sasuke isn't there."
Naruto was about to start arguing that he didn't need anyone to help him rescue Sasuke, anyway, and so he could go rescue him with whoever wanted to come without worry. That last statement, however, through him -- and Sakura, as well -- for a loop. "He's not there?"
"No," Tsunade confirmed. "We've been keeping a closer watch on Sound after Sasuke's... defection. Apparently, he left -- with Orochimaru's blessing -- about two months ago. We aren't sure where he is right now, but we know he's safe from Orochimaru's intended use of him as a container. For the moment."
"We think he may approach the two of you," Kakashi continued. "Whether to fight you, or just talk with you, we aren't sure. We feel fairly confident, however, he will not be doing so while you are in Konoha. Therefore, we are making arrangements for a long-term mission out of the village that the two of you -- and team seven's newest member, who I will be introducing you to tomorrow morning, at our usual meeting place -- will participate in. Hopefully, that will allow him the opportunity to approach us... and we are confident that, whether he arrives as a friend or an enemy, we will be able to handle him."
"But I just got back from two long trips!" Naruto complained. "I haven't even had time to unpack from my training mission with ero-sennin!"
"It will be a good experience for you, Naruto-kun, and you will not be as completely isolated from your friends here as you were before," Tsunade said, standing from her desk and holding up a piece of paper. "There is something I want to do before you go, though. I would like to confirm, by you signing this written oath, that you will accept the offices and duties of a chuunin in Konoha's forces. You may not have realized it, but you had already been promoted to an acting-chuunin before you left on your mission, and when a genin deserves promotion but cannot take the chuunin exam, he will often be given an opportunity to prove himself as an acting chuunin, and if his performance is good enough that promotion will be made permanent. The mission you were yelling at me about not wanting to do, before this whole Sand incident occured, was supposed to be the one to grant you this promotion... however, given your performance in a much more extreme situation, I feel as if I am justified in confirming your promotion, anyway."
Naruto scratched the back of his head, slightly embarrassed. "Heh heh. Well, I--"
"Don't worry about it," Tsunade shrugged, waving him off. "This new mission we have planned for you will last between one and five years. If it takes longer then two years, your promotion to Jounin will be automatic upon your return -- and, Sakura, yours as well. I am not explaining any of the details at this point, however, save to prepare for a journey of that length. You will likely be staying in apartments for much of it, but they may not be available when you start out, so keep that in mind while you get ready. You have a week's time, here, to prepare yourselves. And, Sakura, I'll take care of explaining all this to Ino-chan... you won't have to."
"Ah, thank you, Tsunade-shishou," Sakura replied.
"Very well. Naruto, once you sign here, I'll leave you to enjoy the rest of the day as a paid vacation day. I strongly suggest you relax and not perform any training until you leave on your mission -- I am well aware of just how strenuous both your training and the battles with Akatsuki have been, and while I feel confident your body can take the stress I feel your mental wellbeing would be greatly improved with some rest."
Naruto looked rebellious, but at a motion from Jiraiya just nodded. "Well, I suppose I can find other things to do..." he mumbled.
"That's a good boy. Now, let's get this thing signed, and I'll start getting your mission ready for you...."
* * * * *
Sakura was sitting in front of her closet door, a terrycloth robe wrapped around her shoulders, when Ino came bursting through the door. "Sakura-chan! Long time, no see!" she cheered. "I've already been by the hokage's office, and I know all about your mission... but, more than that, I know that Naruto-dono is back!"
Sakura glanced over her shoulder to see her unusually bubbly roommate. She was not in the mood for this, right now, but she supposed she had to humor her. "Yes, Naruto-kun is back. And, in less than an hour, he's supposed to be here to pick me up for our date." She paused. "I haven't told him about your mindwalk, yet."
Ino just shrugged. "One of us will get around to it, in time. If you've got a date, though, then maybe we'd better get a move on. It'll take a lot of work to get you looking good enough for him," she teased.
"Just what I needed," Sakura sighed dramatically. "Fashion advice from the Ino-pig!"
"Damn straight you do," Ino shot back, ignoring the 'pig' comment. "I may not be the best kunoichi of our generation in Konoha -- I think you're about to take that title from Hinata-san, if you haven't already -- but I am the most fashion-conscious. Now... your hair is a bit of a loss, I'm afraid -- you really should have let me help you with it before you got it all wet in that shower, Sakura-chan -- but I suppose we can manage something suitable for a date from my wardrobe. Yours is too... well, everything you own is identical to just about everything else. You look pretty sharp for someone going off to battle, I'll admit, but to a dinner date?" She clucked. "Come on -- we'll see what I've got that you can wear."
The first few outfits Ino had her try on made her feel rather silly, as they were so frilly an idol singer would think twice before wearing them. Not to mention they were the same shade of pink as her hair -- not exactly a good color choice. After a while, it dawned on Sakura that Ino was joking around. "I haven't got time for this," Sakura complained. "You obviously have something in mind -- what is it?"
Ino laughed. "You know me too well. Hell, I'd never actually buy any of these things I've been making you try on, myself, would I? Actually, I had something... more interesting in mind, I think."
And she pulled out what Sakura knew could be called the 'typical little black dress,' only it wasn't exactly so typical. It came down to about mid-thigh, although a wide slit went so high it almost showed her panties. A chain-link belt cinched it tight around her waist line, and hidden elastic bands helped emphasize her bust better then any padded bra might have. It gave her a perfect hourglass figure, and a little open 'window' about an inch down from the neckline showed that yes, she did have cleavage after all... even it if was largely enhanced by the elastic bands of the wasteline. It was impossible to wear a bra with it, though, which made Sakura feel a little uncomfortable... but there was one thing which sealed the deal for her.
Embroidered on each shoulder was an elaborate nine-tailed kitsune, its tails sweeping down her back, around her armbands, and even down framing the underside of her breasts.
"Wow," Sakura breathed, looking at herself in Ino's full-length mirror. "Where in the world did you get this? I've never seen any store in Konoha carry any kyuubi-motif fashions."
"Your mother made it, actually," Ino laughed. "I told her I'd gotten you to promise to go with Naruto on a date when he got back. We all knew more or less when he'd be returning, so about a month ago she asked me to get your measurements. I think she bought the dress, but did the embroidery herself... and I'm guessing, from your reaction, that your mother knows what you like pretty well, huh?"
Sakura couldn't help buy look at herself in shock. "I didn't believe I could really look like this. But... what will the villagers think? You know... the ones who know?"
"They'll think that you know, and you're still willing to go out with him," Ino answered. "Some of them will hate you for it, and some of them will hate Naruto for taking such a treasure as you are when they feel he doesn't deserve it. A few, however, will see that you know, that you're willing to be with him, anyway, and they will wonder... are they right in hating him for it? And that, my dear Sakura-chan, will be worth it. Don't you agree?"
Sakura had no time to answer before she heard a knocking on the door.
"Well," she said, making a last second adjustment to her hair. "I guess we'll find out, won't we?"
* * * * *
Sakura was pleasantly surprised at how seriously Naruto was taking this date. He had, just as she had told him to, gone out and bought a brand new suit. Hints of moisture in his hair and small wrinkles visible on his fingers told her eyes, trained in the art of observation and deduction, that he had taken a bath or shower immediately before heading over to her place -- something he'd definitely needed to do, but something she wasn't sure he'd think of, given his lifestyle and lack of experience dealing with girls.
Also, while he had definitely appreciated the dress -- the way his eyes bulges when he first saw it more than showed that -- he wasn't ogling her like a pervert. Just... showing a healthy appreciation of her dress and her figure. While his eyes had darted to the obvious things -- the little diamond patch of bare skin that showed her cleavage off, the length of her legs from her boots (which she just couldn't do without, any more -- her muscles had adjusted to them to the point where it sometimes hurt to try and walk without them) to the slit up her thighs, and so forth, they hadn't lingered overlong. The one place they had lingered was entirely understandable, and Sakura had anticipated it -- the embroidered kyuubi was definitely the thing which held his interest the most, on her person. She was not offended, and in fact she was quite pleased with just how appreciative his eyes showed him to be.
She heard a few mutterings on the street as she walked arm-in-arm with Naruto. Many people seemed rather disgusted with her dress, but few spoke anything aloud. There was, however, one moment of... unpleasantness, when a grey-haired woman approached her. "Demon's whore!" she had cried, moving as if to tear the kyuubi patch off of her brand new dress. Her arm, however, never made it that far.
Naruto had, faster then Sakura could see, pulled his arm out from hers, reached over, and grabbed the lady by the wrist. In a low, dangerous voice, he warned the old lady, "Sakura-chan is not a whore, not for any human or demon. I have met a whore or two in my travels, however, thanks to my master -- one of the legendary sannin, Jiraiya-sama -- and one thing I can say about them -- they are much more pleasant company than a bitter old bitch like you. Now, I am not a demon... but if you believe me to be one, and you believe that Sakura-chan is my 'whore,' then you really should think twice about attacking her in my presence and consider just what a 'demon' will do to the person who offends his girl."
The old woman had gaped at him for a moment before he released the wrist. As soon as she regained her wits, she'd turned and fled down the street in terror, shrieking like a banshee. Sakura, a little disturbed, had nevertheless reclaimed his arm. After a moment to steady her own nerves, she had turned to Naruto and asked, "Are you sure it's a good idea to threaten her like that?"
Naruto had nodded, not even having to think about it. "I've had people attack me all my life because they were afraid of what was inside me. That's fine -- I know what kyuubi did, and can sympathize with them. But if they start attacking the people I hold dear because they're afraid of me... well, then, I think they need to learn to respect that fear, and not scorn it. Because they're right, in part -- the kyuubi in me does make me dangerous." He paused. "He and I have been talking, back and forth, for the past year or so. Ero-sennin said I needed to get in touch with him, so that I could develop a new technique of mine. He and I both agree... if something were to happen to you because of us, we would not be happy. We would become what these people are afraid of us becoming. And that... scares me. So, if someone starts moving on the path towards provoking us to become what they fear, it's better to use that fear to turn them from that path. It will make my journey to hokage that much harder, yes, but I think putting my own goals aside to protect others is one of the hokage's roles, and so I would be violating my way of the ninja -- or rather, my way of the hokage -- to do otherwise." He had then blinked, and laughed. "Well, that's how kyuubi put it. I'd probably just say something like, 'nobody tries to hurt my Sakura-chan and gets away with it!'"
Deciding that his reasons were, in fact, pretty well thought out -- and realizing that it likely wasn't a good idea to be talking about that kind of thing on a public street -- she had immediately changed the subject over to small-talk, mostly speculating as to what type of mission they were going to be sent on. Sakura had championed the idea of having to guard a member of the daimyo's court, but Naruto disagreed, speculating that they'd be going on yet another training journey. Niether idea appealed to either of them, but at least it was something to talk about... and the silly speculation allowed Inner Sakura to digest his words -- largely, to come to terms with the concept that the kyuubi, and not just Naruto, were that defensive of her. Just why was the demon living in Naruto's belly button so concerned about her, anyway? Now, they were seated in the restaurant, however, both parts of the Overlay Persona were focused on the date. The implications of kyuubi's interest could wait -- right now, she intended to enjoy herself. After all, it's not like Naruto's own feelings were that much of a shocker; she'd have to talk with him about just how much influence he and the kyuubi had over one another when they were in more private surroundings, however.
They had been given a table much faster then Sakura had anticipated. She expected the restaurant to hold them for a long time, given how poorly most people in Konoha -- including the businesses -- treated him. However, Naruto had made a reservation -- under his own name, in fact -- and it was honored with a minimum of delay. If Sakura was a bit curious about that, her answers weren't long in coming.
"I talked to the old man at the Ichiraku about tonight," Naruto explained, without her even needing to ask. "I told him that was going on a date with you tonight, but that you wanted to go some place fancier then his little ramen stand. He laughed, saying I shouldn't even think about taking a date to a 'rinky-dink little shack' like his. His older brother works here, though, and so he helped me make the arrangements. If the food here is half as good as he said it is, I might be too busy eating to talk much once they serve it."
Sakura laughed. "So we'd better get all the talking out of the way, now, huh? Oh, Naruto... sometimes, you seem like a completely different person then the boy I knew, but it's times like this that help me know you're that same boy, after all."
Naruto blinked. "Who else would I be?"
Sakura laughed, again, before opening her menu to see what was available. She chose things she hoped would be within his budget -- and, given that she had total access to his bank accounts for the past two and a half years, she had a pretty good idea of what his budget should be -- and placed her order. While they waited for the food, he recounted much of his journey through Rock country with Jiraiya. She heard in greater detail about his 'experience' in the brothel -- she was quite curious about that, but it sounded very innocent from what Sakura could tell, and Naruto seemed to her eyes to be quite honest in his account -- and laughed when Naruto explained how Jiraiya was forced to stay away from brothels and similar houses of ill repute the rest of their trip, simply because he was too recognizable among the prostitute population. She heard about how he had mastered enough techniques to actually qualify for his dream job of being the hokage, although, he admitted, some of those techniques were fairly silly. Finally, he talked about his near disaster encountering the former Rainbow nin, and how that had resulted in him making yet another promise he would find difficult to uphold, but which he swore he would accomplish as soon as he could. Sakura didn't say a word, having vowed some time ago never to doubt Naruto again. Still, she wondered just when he would bite off more then he could chew.
"So, Sakura," he said suddenly, glancing over to watch their waiter leave after bringing them their food. "I think I've managed to cover the basics of what happened while I was gone. Why don't you tell me about your time, here -- just why did you move out of your parents' home and take Ino, of all people, as your roommate?"
Sakura froze. She'd been hoping to avoid that question until well after their date -- and well out of earshot of anyone curious enough to be listening in. She knew Naruto fairly well, and fully expected him to explode as soon as she revealed what had been done to him while he was in the hospital, two and a half years before, and didn't want that to ruin their date. Not telling him, though, would be worse -- he needed to know, some time, and if she didn't tell him, now, he'd probably get upset when he learned he hid it from her, later. Well... so much for that pleasant evening she'd been having.
"Naruto... just before you left, Ino... did something to you. She'd been hired to go through your mind, and look at your memories, so--"
"Oh! That was her?" he interrupted unexpectedly, just barely remembering to swallow first.
Sakura gaped at him. "You knew? How?"
"Shizune warned me," he explained. "She heard your 'master,' the old hag, talking with Gaara about it, and wanted to let me know in case I objected. Probably a good thing I did, too -- it kept kyuubi from trying to hurt the intruder. I didn't mind, though -- I knew what Gaara wanted, and thought he should have it. I just didn't know Ino was the one to do it...."
Sakura swallowed. "You mean Ino-chan and I have been fretting about this for the past month for nothing? We thought you'd be upset!"
"Why would I be upset?" Naruto asked. "All she did was look at my memories. I thought, at the time, that the person looking in would be an adult -- you know, someone who already knew about, well, him. That's about the only real secret I had, at the time, so I wasn't worried."
"Oh," Sakura said quietly, trying to digest that. "But then... weren't you trying to keep your fight with Sasuke-kun a secret, too?"
Naruto looked down. "Only from you. I didn't want you to know... just how far Sasuke had fallen into darkness."
They both were silent for a long moment, as niether were able to say anything or even to look at their dinners with Sasuke on their minds. Sakura, to her own surprise, was the first one to snap out of it.
"Oh, come on -- pick up your chopsticks and start eating," she finally said, taking action to eat their food herself. "I'll explain all about just what happened with Ino-chan for you -- you just sit right there and eat like the Naruto I remember... though do try to keep your ears open, this time. I don't want to repeat myself."
From that point on, all the tension dissolved and they enjoyed their meal immensely. Afterwards, they just took a walk through some of the various parks scattered throughout Konoha -- they considered a movie, but Konoha's lone movie theater wasn't playing anything they particularly wanted to see. In the end, though, they just kept talking throughout the evening, finally parting at the door to Sakura's condo early enough for them both to get a good night's sleep before their meeting with Kakashi in the morning. There was nothing especially romantic in their parting -- Naruto was still too unsure of his standing to try for a goodnight kiss, and Sakura felt it was much too early in their relationship to even really call it a relationship. Nevertheless, Naruto felt happier then he had in years at the success the date had been, and Sakura was pleased enough to wonder just how to approach their next date... because there would be another date, even if she had to be the one to pay next time. The only person who wasn't too happy when their evening concluded was Ino -- she was looking forward to a full night to herself, hoping that she would be able to 'not wait up' for the conclusion of the date... and intending to take full advantage of it to tease her friend (in a gentle way -- she didn't want to hurt the chances of the new couple working out, after all) for weeks to come.
* * * * *
It was a pleasant morning, waiting on the bridge for their chronically late jounin sensei. Neither Sakura nor Naruto had exhausted their stock of small talk the previous night, and Sakura had gained a bit more when she awoke to discover her roommate gone, which was quite unusual given that Ino usually woke up late unless going on a mission, and she hadn't heard about the other girl having been scheduled for a mission any time soon.
Once again, however, they spent most of their time coming up with theories as to just what their mission was going to be. Sakura still suspected that they would be made guards of some daimyo's court, since that would allow them to be out in the 'open,' where Sasuke could easily find them, and stationary enough that he would have the time to find them. Also, if they were made guards for Fire Country's daimyo, they would still be in close contact with Konoha -- much as Tsunade said they would be. Naruto, however, had come up with yet another theory... this one much more worrisome.
"It might have something to do with the Rock nin," he suggested. "I spent almost a year in their territory, and something strange is happening there. I'm not quite sure what, but they sure seem interested in building up their size."
Before Sakura could respond to that, a lazy, "Yo," came echoing down from the top of the bridge. There, as always, crouched a belated Kakashi, saluting the pair with a lazy wave of his hand. "Sorry I'm late... but I really did have to see a couple people before I came here, this time."
For once, they could tell he wasn't just making up an excuse but really did seem to have a reason for being absent.
"I'll believe you just this once, Kakashi-sensei," Sakura warned. "Try this excuse again, though, and I'll demonstrate just what Tsunade-shishou did to me the one time I was late to one of her training sessions."
"Sure, sure," Kakashi replied, waving off the threat nonchallantly. Inside, however, he was quite worried -- if even half of what he'd heard about the hokage was true, that would be a rather... painful experience. "Now, on to the little details. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm going to introduce you to our newest team member. I didn't get a chance to tell her until this morning, but... I suspect you'll find working with her to be quite simple. Ino-san, please come out."
"Ino-chan!" Sakura exclaimed, as Ino appeared from behind a tree with a wide grin.
"Hi, Sakura-chan... Naruto-dono."
"Dono?" Naruto repeated, scratching his head.
Not allowing any time for any sort of explanation from Ino about her use of the honorific, Kakashi continued. "Now, I know you don't know what the mission is, just yet. I'm afraid you won't be told until after we're all a day's travel from Konoha, as we don't want anyone discussing this mission -- even in secret -- before we've begun. I can tell you, however, that this will be one of the largest missions we've ever attempted outside of a war. Some teams have already been placed in anticipation of this mission, and will support us when we arrive at out destination. On the journey, however, team seven will be joined by three teams of rookie genin, an ANBU specialist in genjutsu -- who will be instructing you, Sakura, in that field -- and possibly some others who have yet to be determined. The ANBU is Uzuki Yuugaru. She has been an ANBU for five years, although she has been on half-pay for four years, having gone into semi-retirement following the murder of her fiancee in the Sand-Sound war and her inability to avenge his death thanks to the Sand's immediate surrender. This is hoped to be a rehabilitation assignment for her, so please understand if she's a little rusty and help her re-adjust to the ninja life."
"We're hardly the finest examples of people who live the way of the ninja," Ino snorted.
"We'll help," Sakura and Naruto chorused, overriding the blond girl's protest.
"The three teams are Ebisu's team, consisting of Konohamaru, Udon, and Moegi -- you know them, right, Naruto?"
"Uh, yeah," Naruto answered, a little startled. Three rookie teams and an ANBU? Plus team 7? What was going on? "But I haven't had a chance to really get to know them since they became genin."
"Inuzuka Hana's team, consisting of her own cousin Inuzuka Futaba, a boy from a family new to Konoha named Daichi, and a girl named Hyuuga Hanabi."
"Hyuuga? Oh, man... is she more like Negi or more like Hinata?" Naruto asked.
"Now, Naruto, everyone is unique," Sakura admonished. "She's more like herself then either of them, I'm sure."
"And finally," Kakashi continued, acting as if he hadn't heard the conversation. "Shiranui Genma's team. His team members are Kouji, Nobori, and Matsuri... none of any major clan, so I don't know what techniques they may be able to use. Konoha doubled the number of genin teams to pass through for missions, this most recent time, and they were the last team selected -- they have been on only one D-class mission since graduating, which means they're the least experienced of the bunch. They'll probably need the most help getting up to speed, so try to keep that in mind.
"Now... that's over, and you've all been ordered by the hokage to rest up for this week. No training -- we will have people check on you on occasion to make sure you don't, because the hokage is quite insistent on you spending this time as a paid vacation. It isn't for your physical health, Naruto -- we all know you are as healthy now as you're going to get, physically -- but for your mental health. Try to stay out of trouble, and I'll see you in a week."
With that, he disappeared with a puff of smoke. The threesome looked at one another in surprise -- just what was this mission they were gathering for? Were they going to war? No, that wasn't possible... Kakashi had said this was the largest mission ever outside of a war, which meant this was something else. The sheer number of people involved blew all of their theories out of the water, and no-one knew how to react.
Finally, though, Ino moved forward. "Well... I guess we've got some things to discuss if we're going to be a new team, right? So... let's go to the Ichiraku -- my treat!"
Notes: Those of you who expected Naruto to blow up about having his mind searched... well, sorry, but I didn't want to ruin his date with Sakura because of that Heh. I know that I just had a long rant about the reliability of sources outside of the manga and anime with regards to names. Well, that doesn't mean I won't use them when I need them, just that I would never correct anybody using them. All of the genin mentioned in this chapter, as well as the purple-haired ANBU, are names pulled from the Rokudaime website which researched said names in those 'less then reliable' sources. Ages of those presently mentioned, yet possibly not very well known yet: Inuzuka Hana -- 22. Uzuki Yuugara -- 26 (this character is the purple-haired ANBU girl who swore vengeance upon the person who killed Hayate). Konohamaru -- 12. Moegi -- 12. Udon -- 12. Daichi -- 13. (Inuzuka -- his family name is not actually listed from the data, but I figured I'd make him an Inuzuka since he had a dog... makes developing his techniques easier) Futaba -- 12. Kouji -- 13. Matsuri -- 13. Nobori -- 13. Hyuuga Hanabi -- 10. I may also be putting Moegi in the Akamichi clan, since she looks like them (she's really too thin for it, but her face and hair make me think of them), as that will automatically give me a base on which to build her techniques. I was trying to find a clan (major or minor, or even just a minor relation) for Udon, but couldn't come up with anyone... save possibly the late Hayate, thanks to his runny nose, but I decided against that in the end. I also considered making him a Haruno, but then remembered I'd made pink hair a genetic trait of the Haruno clan, so he can't be part of that. So, he's not a part of any known clan, unless someone can suggest to me an idea for where he could be placed. Next chapter, the New Team 7 gets adjusted to being a team, and of course decides to break the rules to engage in a little training. Depending on length, I may finally reveal what the mission is, although I am curious as to what everything thinks the mission will be, and I expect other things to take up a bit of time -- Ino and Sakura saying goodbye to their families, for example -- so that I may not even get to that for two chapters, still. Relatively little needed to be said about the most recent batch of reviews, except for the whole 'age' question. I did not check birthdates when I aged people, I just added 3-4 years to the age I found listed for everyone... as far as I'm concerned, we only have one birthday I need to worry about -- Naruto's. Anyway, that's it for now. Reviews will be welcomed, of course.