Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 7 ( Chapter 17 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: I made a very minor correction to the last chapter that those of you who read it early after I posted might want to be aware of -- I switched Dan from Shizune's brother to her uncle, to correct it to canon. Thanks go to JohnnyG for pointing it out (and not doing it in an obnoxious way). Not much else to say, this chapter -- although I note that reviews AND hits per twenty-four hour period are down considerably. Did I do something wrong?
Chapter 7
Sakura was not having a good start to her day.
She and the rest of the expedition from Konoha had been in Blossom for just about two weeks, and things were going about as smoothly as could be expected. Everyone was taking turns helping out at the construction sites, hoping to get their housing built before too long. By this point, even Ino was starting to get frustrated with the living arrangements -- one night in a hotel room with her teammates was one thing, but two weeks? That was a whole other story.
Sakura, so far, had avoided construction duty -- she was much too busy setting up the hospital. It was a bit of a shock, to her, when Kakashi casually told everyone thier assignments over dinner, that first evening. Naruto had grinned at her and given her an encouraging 'thumbs up' when her role as the head of the hospital was revealed. The hospital was one of the most essential facilities to a ninja village, and whoever directed it was typically the third or fourth most politically powerful person in any ninja village -- following only the leader (either Kage or Jounin-Oyabun -- in this case, Kakashi), the leader's second in command (in this case, much to everyone'e surprise, Naruto), and the head of the academy (who, in Blossom, was her own mother). Hospitals were that essential to a ninja's life.
So, she had set about with a fury trying to get things going. She had taken over the background check process to bring in more civilian staff, she had recruited her own father -- the travelling merchant -- to go out and work with Wave's civilian government on establishing proper supply lines for her much needed supplies, and she had already taken aside the two nurses who had travelled with them as administrative genin and started teaching them enough medical ninjitsu to make the hospital fully functional. Things had, however, reached the point where work on the hospital -- could continue without her. So, for the first time, she was being asked to join in on the construction efforts.
Also, for the first time, someone had walked in on her in the bathroom.
It wasn't Ino. It wouldn't have been a problem if it were her -- after all, there was nothing to be embarrassed about with the other girl. While it didn't happen very often, they'd occasionally catch each other in the buff back at their condo in Konoha, usually because they walked in when they were changing clothes or something similar. It had been a long time since the last -- which was why Sakura hadn't known about Ino's little 'cosmetic' additions until their hotel room stay -- but it wouldn't be the first time. And, since certain parts of Sakura's anatomy had recently begun a small growth spurt, she was hoping that the next time they caught each other she'd find Ino a little jealous. Although Ino still had more then her, she was catching up... and fast.
It wasn't Kakashi. While that would have been embarrassing, she could have dealt with it. Kakashi, she knew, was a pervert -- after all, who other than a pervert reads things like 'Icha Icha Paradise' out in public? He was a relatively harmless pervert, however. If Ayame, over at the Ichiraku in Konoha, was any indication, Kakashi could have had any girl he wanted just by pulling down his mask. He hadn't tried it once in all the years Sakura had known him, so it seemed he would keep his perversion to himself. Besides, she was too young for him, so he'd probably just say "Excuse me," leave, and that would be the last either of them would ever care.
It wasn't Jiraiya trying to sneak a peak, like he had tried to do with Inuzuka Hana a few days before (Thankfully for Hana, her dogs were alert enough to find and chase him our before he could see anything). While that would have been horrible, she would have been okay after she was done murdering the sannin. Sure, she would have killed Naruto's master, but she was pretty sure the blond boy would forgive her when he found out why -- he might even have agreed to help her kill him.
It wasn't even Naruto. While that would have been... a bit hard to deal with, what with her current uncertainty about him, she would have gotten over it. Eventually. She'd probably have had to spend the next few months -- maybe even years -- 'taming' him again (as she'd put it to Ino just a few days before), but she was sure they would, in time, be able to deal with each other again.
In fact, it wasn't anyone she knew. It was a boy, about nine or ten, who didn't even know where he was. They were having an orientation day for the new academy students, as in a week (whether the residential facilities had been built or not) she and everyone else from Konoha would be kicked out of the dorms to make way for the incoming Academy class. This particular student had gotten seperated from the group, and was just looking around for his group. He'd been checking a number of rooms, and apparently she had forgotten to lock the door when she'd gone in to take a shower that morning. She'd just stepped out of the shower and was reaching for a towel when she heard the click of the door opening. With lightning fast reflexes, she'd grabbed the nearest handy projectile -- in this case, a bar of soap -- and threw it at the intruder. If he'd been just three inches taller, at the force she'd thrown that soap, he would have been killed. Instead, however, it had just made things worse. When he first stepped into the room, her back was to the boy... but, in order to make her attack, she had to turn and face him... which meant her entire front was exposed to view.
The look of pure shock and amazement on the student's face was all she needed to see to realize what she had done. Chakra flaring, she screamed at him to leave and close the door behind him... which probably wasn't the best way of handling the situation. It attracted the attention of everyone in each of the nearby rooms, and she just barely had time to cover herself with a towel before a dozen ninjas -- all on the lookout for a fight -- stormed into the little bathroom. The same dozen ninjas she would have to work with that day on the housing constuction... including Ino, Kakashi, Jiraiya, and Naruto.
He hadn't said anything as she started yelling at everyone to get out, although his eyes were unnaturally wide and she thought she saw evidence of a bloody nose starting to drip before he left. She really feared having to deal with his over-aggressive advances, again... he'd been pretty good about it since getting back from his training trip, but that was no proof that he would remain that way now that he's gotten to see that little bit of eye candy. She knew that he'd already tried things like getting a kiss out of her by transforming into Sasuke -- now that he'd seen, well, not quite all she had to offer (thank heavens her fast reflexes allowed her to get that towel in front of her before anyone but that boy had arrived), but at least more of a hint at what she had than any she'd ever revealed to him, before. And, of course, there was Jiraiya -- who probably had now grasped that she might have something worth peeping at, too, so she'd have to be even more careful bathing in the future. And there was Kakashi, who was probably going to act as if nothing had happened... which would annoy her to no end. And there was Ino, who would be laughing at her about it for the next several weeks... making it pretty hard to deal with her on a regular basis for a while.
So it was with some trepidation (okay, a lot of trepidation) that she approached the building she was supposed to be working on that day... with Ino, and Kakashi, and Jiraiya, and Naruto.
"G-good morning, Sakura-chan!" Naruto called, stuttering on his usual morning greeting.
"What's so good about it?" Sakura groused.
Naruto hesitated. "The weather?" he suggested cautiously. The glare she gave him caused him to take a couple steps back from her. "Er... you're going to kill me, aren't you?"
"Only if you ever mention how 'good' this morning is, again," Sakura warned. "Where is everybody else, anyway?"
"Already at work," Naruto explained. "We're broken into two man teams, at the moment."
"And I've got you as my partner? Lovely," Sakura sighed dryly. "Try not to screw this up like you did most of our D-rank missions, okay?"
Naruto looked hurt, but continued explaining nonetheless. "The heavy construction is in, they just need us to install things... countertops, kitchen equipment, shower stalls, sinks, that kind of thing. Also, painting the walls, installing either new carpetting or new wood floors, that kind of thing."
Sakura sighed. "Have you ever done any of that before?"
"Yes," came the surprising answer. "I had to replace everything, once, when my apartment was vandalized about five years ago. No one would help me because of... well, you know."
Suddenly, Sakura's morning didn't quite seem so bad in comparison. "Uh, right."
"I never did the shower stall thing, though, nor the countertops. I've repainted, but never put in a new floor. I've put in a new oven, a new bathroom sink, simple shelving, a bed, and a few other things, before," Naruto elaborated.
Sakura nodded. Well, surprisingly, it seemed he would be a great help on this one. "Well, then, let's get to work."
"We have some choices," Naruto explained, leading her to apartment number six. The housing facilities for the Konoha nin would be entirely composed of apartments -- unless they decided to settle down in Blossom and have a permanent residence built. While that would limit their decorative freedom, it would also be a great boon in other ways -- namely, the housing was free... once they were done building it. "This apartment has two bedrooms, a small living area, a bathroom, and a full kitchen. There's a refrigerator already hooked up, and an oven we'll have to install ourselves, but once those two things are done we can decorate it as we like. The countertops can be in simulated marble, formica, or even butcher's block. We can put in carpet, or hardwood floors, or both. We can have any color we want mixed..."
As Naruto continued explaining the assignment -- reading from a prepared list of instructions, she finally noticed, and not trying to repeat it all from memory -- Sakura looked around the rooms they had been assigned to do. Obviously, this was more than one day's worth of work to finish, but assuming these two-man teams were permanent -- at least, insofar as completing these rooms were concerned -- she could easily see her own touch of design really bringing this place together.
* * * * *
"Sakura-chan," a weary-sounding Naruto sighed. "I went with you on the butcher's block, even though it was the hardest thing to install, because you're right -- it looks pretty good. I agreed to put in the hardwood floors because, again, you were right -- it looks better. You are not going to convince me, however, that neon pink walls are the best color for this apartment to be painted. It's not that I think having an apartment match your hair color looks bad... er, well, it is, but I could understand it. But this isn't your own home, this is someone's apartment. Maybe yours, yes, but maybe mine, and maybe even Kakashi's. Do you really think Kakashi would like pink walls?"
Sakura laughed. "Well, I guess that's not something just anyone would like," she agreed. "What would you like?"
"If we made them white, we could be done with just one coat," Naruto suggested.
"No -- white is a terrible color. It reminds me of hospitals," Sakura shuddered. "I've worked in too many hospitals to want to live in one."
"Well, then, if it's going to take more than one coat, we'll have to come back tomorrow to finish," Naruto sighed.
"I thought this would take a week," Sakura answered. "You're actually pretty good at this kind of thing."
Naruto shrugged. "I'm not very good at gardening, or dog walking, or even picking up trash. But this is something I had to learn how to do even before I had graduated from the academy, and I seem to have a bit of a knack for it."
"Heh," Sakura chuckled. "A natural when it comes to remodelling houses, eh? What else do you have a knack for, anyway?"
Naruto shrugged. "Well, I might be good at it now, but I had to work too hard at being a ninja to say I'm a natural. I can cook a little, but mostly all I can do well is get the most out of a thing of ramen -- that might be a talent of mine! Um... let's see... I'm not too great at drawing, or writing, or speaking... um, I dunno. Ero-sennin seems to think I'm pretty good at gambling, but I don't really think so."
"Good at gambling, huh?" Sakura smirked, amused. "I want to see just how good at gambling you are. Tsunade-shishou may be known as the 'Legendary Sucker,' but it's not because she doesn't know how to play. I've learned a lot about a number of games from her. Are you interested?"
Naruto frowned. "What would we be betting on?" he asked uncertainly.
"How about..." Sakura considered. "If I win, we get to paint the room pink?"
"Hey! I thought you agreed that wouldn't be a good idea!" Naruto exclaimed.
"No, we agreed that pink isn't a color just anyone would like," Sakura pointed out. "I would, however, so I want to paint it pink. So, anyway, if I win, I get to paint it pink... but what do you want if you win?"
"I want to paint it white," Naruto huffed.
"I won't let you paint it white," Sakura growled, getting frustrated. "I'll let you paint it any other color but white... if I lose. But what do you want if you win?"
Naruto scratched his head. "Um... how about a date?"
Sakura raised an eyebrow. Well, he hadn't been all over her like she'd feared he would after that morning. Maybe she could let him have another date without it being too much of a hassle. Besides... she was pretty confident she'd win -- this was Naruto, after all, and she was going to suggest a game of poker. He couldn't possibly beat her at poker, could he? After all, it's not like he would have ever had an opportunity to develop a poker face. "Are you paying?"
Naruto hesitated, then pulled out his little frog-shaped wallet. "Um," he said after a counting his money. "I guess I can afford it."
Sakura grinned. She grabbed a box of nails, and split them in half. "Okay, here's how this is going to work. We play poker, betting our nails. You can't bet or raise more than five nails at a time, and the first one to lose all of their nails loses the game... got it?"
This is going to be so easy, she thought.
* * * * *
Okay, so maybe he doesn't have a poker face, Sakura wondered. But I guess that isn't everything, is it? He isn't cheating, is he?
It wasn't like Naruto even needed to bluff. He always got a good hand -- or at least, a better hand then Sakura had. He never folded, occasionally muttering "I won't ever quit. That's my way of the ninja" to himself on bad hands, but he didn't need to. Even his worst hand, a pair of dueces, beat her, as she had nothing in that round. She'd taken to folding if he ever said anything else, and even that was hurting her -- after all, she lost her ante every time she folded, and Naruto was easily wearing her number of nails down through simple attrition.
"I quit," she finally said, looking at her hand. She had nothing -- absolutely nothing. Even Tsunade had never had a bad streak like this, and now she was getting junk hands which didn't even give her a face card for high card. The more she played him, the worse she was getting.
Naruto collected the nails enthusiastically. "Wow, Sakura-chan. You've only got eight nails left! I--"
"I didn't say I fold," Sakura pointed out. "I said I quit. What paint color do you want and when do you want to go on this date?"
He froze for a second, but then his smile widened into a big grin. He jumped up from the floor, scattering the nails everywhere, and started jumping up and down. "Yahoo! Alright! I won! I get to go on a date with Sakura-chan! I won! I get to go on a date with Sakura-chan!"
He so resembled the little kid she remembered always jumping up and down every time something went right for him that she couldn't keep her disgust with herself at loosing. Still, he wasn't going to escape her wrath that easily -- Sakura didn't like to lose, but if she lost she would definitely punish the person who beat her.
"Naruto," she growled.
"I get to go on... hmm? What is it, Sakura-chan?"
"Pick up those nails you spilled... right now... or else I'll make this 'date' of ours a living hell! Got it?" she snapped.
That brought him back to his now more mature self. "Er... right, Sakura-chan."
"So, let's take these questions one at a time, since you don't seem to be able to deal with them both at once," Sakura snorted condescendingly. She noticed him wince, and decided she'd punished him enough -- in a much more friendly tone, she asked, "What do you want to paint the room?"
"Well," Naruto considered, almost dropping the four or five nails he'd already picked up while he concentrated. "I guess it's too late to do just one coat, anyway, so I suppose I don't even want white any more." He glanced around, looking for inspiration. "How about the same red as your shirt?"
Sakura blinked. She always wore the same color red, so she knew exactly what he meant, and she tried to picture it around the apartment. "That's... actually better then the pink, Naruto-kun. Red it is! And the date?"
"Let's wait until after we've moved into our new apartments, okay?" he suggested.
"Why?" Sakura asked suspiciously.
"Do you really want Kakashi-sensei to be there when we get back?" Naruto asked. "Reading one of his stupid books?"
The thought of those books made her agree right away -- Kakashi was a pervert, there was no question about that, and Sakura didn't want to know what kind of innuendo he might unleash if he was there at the start and end of one of their dates. "You're right. How does a week from tomorrow sound?"
Naruto nodded. "Okay! Now... let's go get the red paint. I want to get this done tomorrow, at least!"
* * * * *
"Hey, Forehead Girl!" Ino greeted Sakura when she finally returned to their dorm that night. She had a twinkle in her eye which Sakura knew meant she was up to know good, and the 'forehead girl' crack seemed to indicate she was in a teasing mood. Surprisingly, though, she didn't follow up with any jokes about that morning, but instead said, "Can we go out somewhere and talk?"
Sakura shrugged. "Sure -- I haven't eaten yet, anyway, and Naruto was planning on guzzling down a dozen bowls of ramen. Instead of losing my appetite watching him in one of his 'feeding frenzy' moments -- which, thankfully, he doesn't have every time he eats even if I'm pretty sure he will tonight -- I figured I'd try and find somewhere else to go for dinner."
Ino nodded. "Yeah, I remember being totally disgusted the one time my Naruto psyche decided it was going on one of those 'feeding frenzies' in my body. I don't remember having seen him do it since he got back from his training trip, though...."
"He hasn't," Sakura mused. "At least, not that I've seen. He still eats about ten bowls a day, though, and he hasn't had any at all so far, today. I'm not going to chance it."
"Well, that's fine," Ino replied, smiling happily. "Because I need to talk to you, and I haven't had dinner, either. I think they opened an okonomiyaki stand just yesterday -- do you want to try it?"
With a nod, the pair left. Sakura realized something once they got to the new restaurant. "Hey! This is just a block from the apartment building Naruto and I were working on!"
Ino looked where Sakura was pointing and laughed. "I didn't know that! Well... it might be good to scout out the area, anyway -- it's a good idea to check out the local food."
"I guess you're right," Sakura agreed, taking a seat at an open table. There was only one waitress, and a sign saying 'please seat yourself' was apparently all the greeting the okonomiyaki stand could afford at that point. That, in Sakura's mind, was not a good sign.
The food, however, was pretty good, she decided once she'd taken her first bite. There weren't any good okonomiyaki restaurants in Konoha, but Blossom looked like it would have at least one... once it found enough waitresses to give reasonably good service, that was. Still, it seemed to be working out pretty well.
"So," Sakura asked, nibbling away at another piece of their dinner. "What was it you wanted to talk with me about, Ino-chan?"
"Mm," Ino replied, before realizing her mouth was full and swallowing quickly. "Well, I was looking at our housing guidelines. We can ask for either a one bedroom or a two bedroom apartment, but we can only get the two bedroom apartment for sure if we sign up as two people. The two bedroom apartments have a full kitchen, a living room, and a nice bathroom with a shower. The one bedrooms, though, use communal baths and only come with a kitchenette. I really want a two bedroom apartment. Since you're my roommate back in Konoha, well...."
Sakura smiled. "Sure thing, Ino-chan. I don't particularly want to deal with communal baths, myself."
"I didn't think you would," Ino laughed. She gave Sakura another one of those dangerous twinkly eyes -- the ones that warned of her desire to drive Sakura nuts with teasing -- before continuing. "I was a little worried you'd say no for another reason, though...."
"What reason was that?" Sakura asked cautiously.
"Well, I wondered if maybe you'd want to partner up with one of the genin," Ino explained. "After this morning, I wondered if maybe you liked flashing little kids."
Sakura groaned. And so it begins... again.
* * * * *
Notes: Another chapter in the books. Not much important happened here, I suppose, but a number of important things were set up. Coming next chapter, Naruto and Sakura's next date. Possibly some other things will happen, too, because I'm not sure that will take long enough to merit its own chapter, but I'm guessing that the date -- and it's repercussions -- just might be long enough. If it isn't, the next chapter might be delayed some -- possibly as long as a week. I've been summoned for Jury Duty on Monday, and I'm told that means if I'm selected I'll be stuck on the jury for (an average of) one week. Given how busy my real life has been (and I think the fact that I've been staying up until 3a.m. every night for the past couple weeks getting chapters out ALREADY should say something about that), I don't think I'll wind up with much writing time on a daily basis. If I have to start into the post-date storylines I'll have to make the chapter almost double length... and so I won't be able to finish the chapter before I have to start jury duty. Urgh. Until next time, whether that's tomorrow or a week from now, ja ne!