Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 6 ( Chapter 16 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: Okay, so y'all didn't like the name 'Blossom.' I figured 'satellite of a leave -- oh, a blossom!' but apparently that wasn't well recieved. It was better then my earlier option (which was 'Twig'), especially as just about everyone in the town is going to 'blossom' into better ninjas and better people. Well, most of them, anyway. It's too late to change it, anyway, so I'm afraid you'll just have to deal with it. Here's the next chapter, enjoy.
Chapter 6
Notes: Thanks to JohnnyG for reminding me of a certain mistake regarding Dan's relationship to Shizune. This chapter has been re-uploaded with that relatively minor changed fixed. (I'm not getting in the habit of this, but that was something I flubbed on and had to fix)
Wagons, Sakura mused, make carrying things easier... but for a ninja, it can really slow you down.
They were within sight of the small town built around the Naruto Bridge, but it had taken longer to get there then even Kakashi had expected. With the wagon train in tow, they were forced to follow the main roads instead of saving time by taking less developed paths. Rains tormented them from the second day onward, causing many of the roads -- unpaved in many of the areas they were travelling -- to become nothing but a series of giant mud puddles which they were constantly forced to dig out of. What had been for Team Seven's first trip a three day trip, and for Sakura's chuunin test a two week trip, took almost a full month during the rainiest part of the year. People and animals -- including Futaba's dog, Gonta -- fell ill, and had to be loaded onto the wagons to travel. Udon had pneumonia, never being the healthiest of ninjas in the first place, and just about everyone was miserable. Ino refused to even look in anything even mildly reflective, afraid of how horrible she must have looked with all the mud and dirt caked on her.
Nevertheless, they'd finally made it, alive and mostly intact. Everyone was breathing a sigh of relief as they finally were able to check into an inn for the night.
"Okay," Kakashi said. "Asuma, why don't you go see if you can get everyone rooms. I'm going to go find the mayor and let him know we've arrived. Sakura, you're the only true medi-nin we've got -- so far, we've only had some of the administative nurses looking at Udon, but they don't have any medical ninjitsu. See if you can figure something out to get him on his feet, again. Hana, you've got time to check out your dogs, but first see to the stabling of the mules. Naruto, with me. Everyone else, wait here for Asuma-san to finish up, then check in to your rooms. Jiraiya, I know you don't want to be in charge, but see if you can look after everyone until I get back."
"Yes, sir," came the a rather tired response. Even Jiraiya, after such a miserable journey, seemed compliant with Kakashi's requests. Everyone with a job dispersed, and so Kakashi pulled out a map and started searching around the town.
As Naruto followed Kakashi while the older ninja made his way around the unfamiliar town, he glanced around curiously. For some odd reason, people were looking at him oddly... but not in the same way as they used to look at him back in Konoha. It almost resembled... respect? He'd never really been looked at with respect, before -- at least, not by complete strangers. It felt very odd to him. However, he decided he would ignore it, much as he ignored the taunts and scowls in Konoha.
"Kakashi-sensei," he began when they came to a stop.
"Hm?" Kakashi grunted, trying to decipher the map.
"Why did you ask me to come with you?"
"Hm," Kakashi muttered, finally deciding on a direction. "Because, for all intents and purposes, you're going to be the second ranking ninja in Blossom."
Naruto blinked. "Eh? But... what about the closet pervert, and the dog girl, and Asuma, and Anko, and Genma, and ero-sennin, and... and... um, that ANBU girl, and--"
"Yes, they all are jounin or better, and you're just a chuunin. However, they aren't going to be in the chain of command -- you're going to be to me what Shizune-san is to Tsunade-sama. Technically, Shizune-san is nothing more than a genin, having never even gone through a chuunin exam -- in fact, she might not even be that. She was still an academy student when Dan, Tsunade-sama's lover, was killed... who also happened to be Shizune's uncle. Tsunade was... unable to function as a ninja, after that, and so left the village... and Shizune left with her, without having ever graduated from the Academy. Because she was Tsunade's student and attendant, however, she's the person who acts as hokage when Tsunade-sama is out of the village. Ebisu, Hana, and Genma will be taking their teams out on missions, and so cannot be put in charge of the village. Asuma is leaving as soon as a proper messenger service is set up between here and Konoha. Jiraiya is on detached duty, and Anko is... unreliable -- she, too, has a cursed seal like Sasuke, and while she has resisted it for more than a decade, now, she admits that she cannot completely overcome its effects. That leaves you, Sakura, and Ino as people who are in command-grade rank... and all three of you will be splitting duties. Sakura will be teaching in the new academy and setting up a new hospital, Ino will be teaching and acting as our liason with the civilian administration of Wave, and you will be teaching and being my attendant," Kakashi explained.
Naruto blinked. "Teaching? I'll be teaching?"
"Part-time," Kakashi emphasized. "Most jounin team leaders have taught at least part-time at the Academy as chuunin. The Fourth did, as well, before the Rock War."
"I thought Sakura's mother was going to be the teacher," Naruto mused.
"She is," Kakashi replied. "She's the only full-time Academy instructor we'll have, too. The rest of you will be part-timers working with specific things -- you will be hand to hand combat and sparring, Sakura will be chakra molding and control, and Ino will be kunoichi specialty training, especially dealing with ikebana, tea ceremony, and the like. Try not to turn your students into pranksters, though, would you?"
Naruto grinned slightly. "No promises, Kakashi-sensei."
Kakashi sighed. "Just don't embarrass any of our civilian contacts, then, would you? It could make for a public relations disaster."
* * * * *
Sakura was waiting outside of the hotel for Kakashi and Jiraiya as they returned. She could tell they were coming from a couple blocks away -- or rather, she could hear Naruto, as his complaints that someone "Nearly pulled my arm out of my socket! What was he trying to do -- cripple me?" could be heard for quite some distance. As soon as they got within sight, she stepped out from the protective overhang of the door and waved over to them.
"Kakashi-sensei! Naruto-kun! Over here!"
Eager to be out of the rain, both darted over to her as fast as they could. "Hey, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, smiling as he usually did whenever he greeted her. "Why are you here?"
"We could only get one hotel room per team," Sakura explained. "Ino's already up in the room, taking a shower. I'm out here because they only gave us one key." She held up a brass key, showing it off.
"Er... one room?" Naruto said hesitantly. "Four all four of us?"
"Don't get any funny ideas," Sakura warned. "I'm uncomfortable enough with the situation as it is. At least we have two beds and two futons."
Kakashi shrugged. "You're too young for me, and I suspect you'd kill Naruto if he tried something, right? We've camped out, together, many times -- what's the problem?"
"Four walls and a single bathroom shared with four people," Sakura answered dryly. "And the bathroom door doesn't lock properly."
Kakashi winced. "We'll be careful... and between us, I think we can keep Naruto out of trouble."
"Hey!" the blond teenager protested. "I can be careful, too."
"Sure, sure," Kakashi replied dismissively. "Now... I'm sure Ino-san isn't the only one of us who wants a shower, or a bed, so let's get up to the room."
As a group, the trio trudged up the stairs with Sakura in front. She stopped in front of the first door on the second floor and put in the key. Before she opened it, she knocked loudly to warn Ino they were coming in.
"Ino-chan," Sakura called. "They're here."
"I'm still in the bathroom, but the door's closed -- come on in," came the muffled reply. "And bring me my bag -- I forgot my change of clothes."
Sakura sighed, leading the way inside. "Ino and I have picked the beds. You two can pick which futon you want."
"Hey, why do you two get the beds?" Naruto protested.
"Because we're girls," Sakura answered, poking her tongue out at him teasingly. "Besides, we were here first."
"I was too busy having my arm pulled out of its socket by the mayor to try and get here first," Naruto muttered.
"Naruto, the mayor was trying to shake your hand, not pull your arm out of it's socket," Kakashi noted dryly. "He may have been a tad enthusiastic about it, though...."
Sakura tuned them out as she picked up Ino's bag and joined her in the bathroom, being careful to slip in without flashing her friendly rival to her male teammates... as much as she wanted to, just to get back at her for grabbing the shower first. With a long sigh, she held out the bag.
"Here you go."
Ino flipped open the bag and pulled out a modest nightgown and started to change despite Sakura's presence. As she stripped off the hotel robe, Sakura's eyes widened.
"You did get the tattoos, after all, didn't you?" she gasped.
Ino smirked at her devilishly. "Of course. Why wouldn't I have?"
Sakura shook her head. "I thought you were joking -- at least, about getting them there. By the way, we're going to be rooming with two guys -- are you sure you want to wear that?"
Ino had just pulled the simple gown over her head and was tugging it into place. She glanced down, frowning. "Why not? It covers everything. Good point, though -- I suppose I should wear some panties with it, just to be safe."
Sakura shook her head. "I don't like parading around guys in my nightwear, but I suppose you're decent enough."
"Chicken?" Ino smirked. "Afraid Naruto will get naughty ideas seeing you prance around in those pink sweats you sleep in?"
"Yes," Sakura admitted gracefully. "He's hard enough to deal with, already -- I've managed to be his teammate and go on overnight missions with him for years without letting him see me in less then my normal day clothes, and I've finally managed to tame his hormones down enough to be able to deal with him on a regular basis. I have no desire to drive him wild, again."
Ino laughed. "You want a tame fox, huh?"
Sakura cocked her head. She had admitted to her mother that she'd give Naruto a chance with her, hadn't she? So maybe, just maybe, she could admit it to Ino, too, without too many problems. "No, I want a wild fox. But only when I'm ready for him."
The absolutely priceless look of shock on the blond girl's face was more then enough reward... and somehow kept her from adding the "if I'm ever ready for him" she meant to add.
* * * * *
As the thirty ninja made their way across the town to the bridge, Naruto couldn't help feeling a bit nervous. In Konoha, he had long wanted recognition and respect from his fellow villagers. Here, in this town that had sprung up around the bridge he'd helped defend just under four years before, he had the respect... but it wasn't quite like he expected it to be. Yes, hewas being respected, but in the same sort of way that many of the girls in Konoha 'respected' Sasuke: They all had this picture of an 'ideal' person named 'Naruto,' and so when 'Naruto' appeared, they believed he was that ideal. It was the respect... without the recognition. No-one here knew him, they just knew of him -- and in the exact opposite way as they did in Konoha. As he saw crowds of people glancing at him with what appeared to be impossible expectations -- to do what, Naruto didn't know -- he couldn't help but wonder if this was what Sasuke had felt. The pressure, the enormous pressure, to be something he wasn't to people he didn't even know. If it was true, then there was no wonder Sasuke took the escape when he saw it -- although Naruto hoped that he would have been able to avoid the temptation to make that escape by becoming a traitor and joining forces with his villages worst enemy. Or by betraying those who did recognize him, and were his friends because of that and not because of some glorified reputation he might possess.
Sakura, walking by Naruto's right, was having a hard time. She, too, saw the people of Wave Country looking at Naruto in admiration... and she didn't quite know what to make of it. She knew he was a hero to these people -- the fact that they named their all-important bridge after him was proof of that -- so she understood that he would be looked up to. She could also tell something about all the admiring glances was bothering him, but she couldn't tell what -- wasn't this what he'd wanted? However, that puzzlement wasn't the only thing bothering her. She noticed, among the crowd, quite a few girls -- some as young as ten, others who might even be in their twenties -- who were all mooning over Naruto... or worse, trying to flirt with him. He was oblivious to it all, but she certainly wasn't -- Naruto wasn't the brightest person in the world when it comes to just how girls acted, but Sakura knew... because she'd acted the same way to Sasuke for years. Somehow, the way they were treating him made her feel jealous -- for obviously no reason, as she wasn't in love with him (not yet, at least) or anything... and it's not like he'd even look at loose girls like that, anyway! -- and it also somehow made her feel... guilty.
Ino knew just what was wrong with Naruto, and was arguing in her head with the Shadow Naruto persona about just why he should accept the praise and be happy about it. She intended to speak with the real Naruto about it, as well, as soon as they were able to talk in at least some limited bit of privacy -- it certainly wasn't the sort of discussion to have out in public, where they would be overheard. However, she was starting to realize, as well, how completely different things were with Naruto and Sasuke, and why that made them so similar. Naruto was tormented because no-one knew he was really a good person, one of the best of the best, and he was under a great deal of pressure to prove them all wrong; Sasuke had been tormented because everyone expected him to be a good person, the best of the best, and he was under a great deal of pressure to prove them all right. Niether one, however, had been allowed anyone who understood who, exactly, they really were... at least, not until fairly recently. She found herself analyzing her own behavior with Sasuke, and felt ashamed... for she, too, had been guilty of expecting too much out of him. And so had Sakura, and Lee, and Gaara, and Kakashi, and just about everyone... but Naruto, who didn't treat Sasuke as some great genius but instead as an equal. The equal of the 'dead last.'
As Ino was the only person with the ability to read minds in the immediate area, no-one knew of the inner conflicts the three were experiencing. They passed through the town with no conflicts, and soon arrived at the bridge. Naruto hadn't even noticed the bridge dedication -- nor the fact that half of the businesses in the area were named after him. If they weren't marching in a ceremonial formation, and therefore forbidden from talking to one another save in an emergency -- Sakura would have loved to have pointed it out to him. She also would have loved to point out the Naruto Ramen restaurant, the Uzumaki Oden-ya, and even the Uzumaki Naruto Memorial Brothel (which required all of its employees to be blond-haired women) although, with that last one, she would have been rather disappointed if he'd taken much interest in it on his own.
"Kakashi-dono!" came a familiar voice's call half-way across the bridge. "Welcome to Wave Country... again."
"Tazuna-dono," Kakashi said back, bowing formally. "I have always enjoyed this country when I have visited, even if it hasn't always been on the best of terms. Now, as it appears I and my fellow Konoha nin present will be living here, I hope to help Wave country continue to blossom."
The vaguely familiar man to Tazuna's left laughed. "Well said, Kakashi-dono."
"Let me introduce my companions," Tazuna answered Kakashi back formally, sounding a bit stiff as he obviously was saying a well-rehearsed speech. "To my left is Kaji-dono. You may remember him as the boatman who helped you during your first mission to our beloved land. He is now our Minister of Naval Affairs -- he deals with both civilian and military maritime issues. If ever you need to get somewhere by boat, he is the man you will be dealing with."
"Kaji-dono," Kakashi greeted, giving a short bow to the man.
"And this other man is Giichi-dono. Giichi is my Attendent and Chief Advisor. If I am ever unavailable, he will be the man you are to meet for any required civilian co-ordination with your operations."
"Giichi-dono," Kakashi said, bowing once again, this time to a man that team seven remembered as a simple construction worker the last time they had met him.
"Come, let us guide you to Blossom," Tazuna declared, obviously still speaking prepared words, as stilted as he said it. Then, as they started walking to follow him, he sighed. Speaking in a much quieter -- and less formal -- tone, he continued, "I'm afraid we're not done yet."
"Oh?" Kakashi said, letting no emotional reaction show in his voice. If Sakura and Naruto didn't know better, they would say he was completely disinterested... but as they were now quite familiar with how Kakashi worked, they knew he was simply trying to hide whatever it was he felt.
"The administrative genin your hokage left here have done a fine job," Tazuna began. "But despite our much improved economy, we lack the ability to acquire resources as quickly as we needed them. We vetted civilian developers to assist in the village construction, and so there is already a small civilian population available to draw a work force from and to make business deals with. However, so far residential construction is way behind. We managed to complete the Academy building, which your genin advised will double as the Administrative building until funds permit making a seperate facility. We also have finished the Hospital, although we haven't been able to perform background checks fast enough to provide you with the needed civilian staff members, and we haven't established a proper supply line for medical equipment -- we have some supplies on site, but replacements will be slow to come by until we've found a trustworthy merchant to deal with. Your initial plans called for the establishment of no fewer then six training zones on the outskirts of the village, but so far we have only identified good locations for four of them. We apologize for the delay."
"All understandable," Kakashi sighed. "So, we're low on housing. How low?"
"Unless you want to kick out the civilians already in place -- which would not be a good idea, given that they're the ones who will be building the rest of your village for you -- we've got nothing ready for you," Tazuna admitted. "Your administrative genin said that it wasn't as much a priority as the hospital or the academy, at this time, because the academy building was designed with a small number of dormitories for the non-commuting students to live in. I suspected you would ask this question, so I brought a copy of the blueprints so that you could see what the facilities are like."
Kakashi took the proffered diagram in his hands and studied it for a few seconds. "Hmm... looks like the teams will have to share rooms with each other for a while, still, after all."
* * * * *
Notes: Finally, proof that I'm not really a Sasuke-hater. I just have a very... odd view of him, perhaps -- as Naruto has been known to say, he and Sasuke are just like each other. Both without parents, both victims of expectations, and both under a great deal of stress because of those expectations. Sasuke cracked under that stress, however, and Naruto rose (or at least is rising) above it -- that doesn't mean I think of Sasuke as irredemably evil, just that Naruto is the stronger person. Sasuke will continue to act this way -- as a villain -- until something finally makes the stress of expectations worth it for him... yet as for what that something is (at least in this fanfic), well, you've just got to wait and see. Now, next chapter, our heroes start exploring their new town and get their new jobs explained to them. Until then, ja ne!