Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 9 ( Chapter 19 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: Someone made an eerily plausible suggestion for why my readership suffered such a sudden drop a few chapters ago, one that's been born out as that part of the reader base seems to be returning already. "Um, wasn't that the night a lot of people were waiting in line at bookstores for the earliest possible release of the new Harry Potter books?" Considering I happen to know at least some of my readers followed me here from my Harry Potter fanfic days (which, by the way, are over -- the HBP killed my interest in writing HP fanfiction -- and please don't review on that subject, I've already repeated myself enough times to others who asked me about it), that just might be true. At least, I hope it is -- I can't think of what I might have done to cause such a dramatic drop in readership for a single chapter. Anyway, enough about that. I'm writing this after having been on jury duty, today (7/18) -- and yes, I was selected for the jury *sigh* which means I'm losing a few days to my civic duty, and so I'll point out that these notes were all written on Monday. Anything I might decide to respond to after Monday will be in the closing notes (assuming I don't actually finish this chapter today. It's possible, though unlikely -- I wasn't expecting to have as much spare time afterwards to write in as I've gotten), so if you were expecting an answer to a review of yours look there. And now, on with the fic -- enjoy!
Chapter 9
The first semester in the history of the Konoha Blossoms Ninja Academy was now two weeks in, and for the first time Sakura, Naruto, and Ino would be teaching thier own classes. Sakura's chakra training and control classes were Mondays and Wednesdays, Naruto's would be Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Ino's would be Saturdays (in special classes reserved for the girls). This first year, there weren't very many students -- only about a dozen, where in Konoha they typically had about thirty new recruits enter each semester. Still, a dozen first-year students was pretty intimidating for people who had never taught anything before, so it was with some trepidation that the three started making out their work plans.
All three of them worked on them together -- in Naruto's apartment. Sakura had only needed to stay for a couple days before Ino showed up at the door, a sincere apology on her lips. Sakura accepted, and returned to Ino's... but made sure she had a set of essentials over in her room at Naruto's in case she ever needed to leave again. There had been one weak joke, since, about Sakura maybe wanting an excuse to be chased out again, so that she could go running to her 'boyfriend's' house. Sakura, back to her old self, had stomped that suggestion into the ground... although she hadn't made any corrections with regards to Ino calling Naruto her 'boyfriend.' Naruto, Sakura decided, was perhaps reaching the point where she could be proud to call him her boyfriend... and while the shadow of Sasuke loomed over them, she still felt comfortable enough in thier growing relationship that she would be willing to let him don that title, provided he didn't let it go to his head. So far, however, she hadn't let him know that... and hoped it would stay that way for a long time.
Ino had loved the apartment when she saw it (paying a particular compliment to the wall color) and she had been the one to suggest they meet up in room 6 for their planning session. All three of them were given a list of various points they had to cover in their lessons, and shortly after the meeting started Sakura and Ino were debating various points on the kunoichi training list, trying to determine if they'd actually ever used any of those same lessons, themselves. While their conversation was going on -- and was seriously over his head -- Naruto read the long list of things he needed to teach his students. As he puzzled over it, he started getting more and more frustrated -- just how was he supposed to cover all of it in only two days a week?
"Argh!" he moaned. "This doesn't make any sense!"
Both Sakura and Ino stopped their conversation to look at him in surprise. "Well," Ino began. "I know it might not to you, since you've never had kunoichi training, but ikebana is a very important skill for espionage purposes. It makes it so much easier to hide listening devices, and--"
"No, no -- not that. Well, yes, I don't get that at all, but that wasn't what I was talking about -- why do I have to teach all this? Huh?" He waved his list in front of their faces, and cried, "I mean, I can do it -- at least, I think I can. I know everything they want me to work on, but... I just don't get it! I didn't have to learn this at the academy -- did you?"
Sakura, tired of trying to read the piece of paper as he waved it in front of his face, snatched it from him with a glare. Finally, with the paper held still in her steady hands, she started reading... and her eyes bulged.
"That can't be right. I... hold on." She quickly pulled out her own list, which she had yet to do more than skim through as she was more interested in adding her input to Ino's list, and started glancing down it. "Oh, my god. Ino... look at this! Read mine first, then Naruto's."
Ino, as instructed, started reading Sakura's first.
"We expect you to divide your time in half," the message said. "We suggest you devote one of your days to chakra building exercises -- it is out understanding that the hokage has been teaching you a wide range of such practice techniques, and we would like for you to instruct your students in all of them. Advise them that they must begin improving their chakra immediately, as they will be using it in all other lessons. The second day, we expect you to train them in chakra molding and control. Before the end of the semester, we would like you to have them attempt tree climbing exercises."
That wasn't too unusual, although Ino had to admit that it was asking a bit more out of the students then was asked of them before they became genin. She, certainly, hadn't had to attempt any tree climbing exercises until just before she was recommended for her first chuunin exam. Also, she hadn't been asked to learn any chakra building exercises until after she became a chuunin -- she had enough chakra for the techniques she knew as a genin, and that was all she needed. It wasn't until she read Naruto's list -- written in more direct terms -- that the significance came to her.
"Supervise\assist in sparring one day each week. Every non-sparring day, teach the following techniques:
"Shuriken training (including wielding kunai as a dagger)
"Fuuma Shuriken
"Kage Shuriken no Jutsu
"Kawamari no Jutsu
"Henge no Jutsu
"Bushin no Jutsu"
Those were no surprise -- after all, every student at the Academy learned them. Even Rock Lee had managed to duplicate the results, if not the actual techniques, for his academy test (although using so much speed as to create two after-images of himself to approximate a cloning technique left him unable to move -- much less train -- for days). It was the continuing list that was the shock.
"Mizu Bushin no Jutsu
"Doton -- Shinjuu Zanshu no Jutsu
"Kontserun Henge no Jutsu
"One other ninjitsu for each student."
Ino's eyes ran down the list, uncertain just what it meant. "Naruto, you know water clones and the earth element decapitation technique?"
"And combination transformations?" Sakura asked, uncertainly. "And why would you even bother with water clones, anyway?"
"Yes," Naruto sighed. "I know all those techniques. I never saw the point of learning the Mizu Bushin, but Jiraiya insisted that I should probably train with them since I was training under cover. Several nations teach their students the mizu bushin -- few teach the kage bushin."
"Why?" Ino asked, curious. "They do the same thing, right?"
"Not quite," the answer came -- not, surprisingly, from Naruto. Instead, it was Sakura who answered. "Kage bushin uses more chakra, but the shadow clones are able to perform certain things a mizu bushin cannot... and visa versa. Certain varieties of kinjutsu may be performed without harm to the ninja if he has a kage bushin clone perform them, whereas the water clone is tied more tightly to the ninja who performs the technique. There are other differences, as well, but that was the one mentioned on the 'forbidden' sealing scroll... the one you once stole, Naruto-kun. Tsunade-shishou let me look at the scroll at one point -- though not long enough to learn any of the techniques -- and I never understood why until I learned of kyuubi. The Fourth used the techniques on that scroll to seal it up inside you, and the 'kage bushin' was the first lesson because he hoped its use would allow him to survive using that technique."
"It might have," Naruto said after a moment. "Kyuubi just... explained it. He says that the Fourth tried the technique a first time on him with a shadow clone... but the clone's power wasn't strong enough to seal him. He had to use his full strength in order to do it, and so in the end he used that sacrificial sealing technique himself to complete it."
"Kyuubi explained it?" Ino gasped. "Since when are the two of you on speaking terms?"
"Ero-sennin encouraged me to meditate, and talk with the fox," Naruto sighed. "It wasn't very pleasant, at first. However, we finally managed to make a deal which should keep the kyuubi willing to help me when the time comes for battle. Since then, however, he'll occasionally pop out and start talking to me... sometimes about rather silly things." He glanced at Sakura, smiling slightly. "And sometimes not so silly things."
Sakura blinked, wondering just what that look meant. "So, anyway," she finally said, deciding to get them back on topic. "That list... Ino, what do you make of it?"
"They're trying to make genin with chuunin-like abilities," Ino replied. "Or... hm. Actually, just the techniques alone wouldn't make a person a chuunin, when you consider what some genin are capable of...."
"Of course!" Sakura exclaimed. "These people... not a single one of them will have had any family training -- no bloodline limits, no family techniques, not even any stories from their parents to help seperate the myth of what a shinobi is capable of from the fact. If a genin has just his or her basic techniques, it becomes... hard... to keep up with other genin." Sakura winced. "I know what that feels like, not even knowing of my own bloodline traits and getting very little from them for so many years as a student. It took me a long time to figure out what I needed in order to make myself... well, at a reasonable level for a ninja."
Naruto blinked at Sakura. "What are you talking about? You were always a great ninja! I wouldn't have learned what I have half as quickly if it hadn't been for you! Kakashi didn't help me figure out that whole tree-climbing exercise at all -- I needed your help in order to figure it out. You're better with a kunai then I'll ever be, you know, and you were the only one of us who could figure out how to dispel a genjutsu. Yeah, sure, your combat skills weren't as great as Sasuke's or mine, but we didn't need you to be a combat-type ninja. We had that covered, between us -- what we needed was someone to help us figure out what the hell Kakashi was saying, to know how to accomplish all those D-class mission tasks that I never understood, to help us rig up traps, basically someone to help us do what we couldn't."
Sakura smiled at him, feelings of gratitude swelling within her. "Thank you, Naruto-kun... but I know better. Even if I was all those things you say I was, it was never enough to make me feel like I was that good of a ninja. Now, however... well, I feel I don't always have to be the one watching the battle from the back, any more. But I had to get a lot of help to reach this point, so... I wonder if maybe our students are going to be expected to learn more from us, because we're the only ones who can teach them."
Naruto nodded slowly. "Okay... but why am I the one teaching all of this? Isn't your mother supposed to teach them things, as well?"
Both girls looked at him in surprise -- not because of what he said, but because the same thing hadn't occured to either of them. "I... well, she's supposed to," Sakura agreed. "But suddenly I'm not sure what's going on. Maybe we should talk to mom about it, because I really don't know."
Ino sighed. "Do we really need to know, though? Wouldn't they have told us, if it was something important?"
"I need to know," Naruto stated firmly. "Maybe you don't, since all you're doing is teaching flower arranging and tea ceremony and girl junk like that -- nothing important, anyway."
"To a kunoichi who is involved in surveillance operations, it could be a matter of life and death," Sakura noted dryly.
Naruto looked surprised. "Really? Well... I guess we were never on any surveillance missions, before, so I never would have noticed. But anyway, I need to know so that I don't look silly trying to teach them things they already are supposed to know."
"And I'd like to know what my mom's doing here, if she isn't teaching anything," Sakura chimed in. "Although I suspect she is, just not anything to do with combat techniques or chakra development. She could be exclusively teaching non-combat skills -- surveillance techniques, moving silently, hiding from view, that kind of thing."
Naruto scratched his head. "Why not have me teach that stuff? I'm pretty good at all that stuff."
Sakura coughed, looking embarrassed. "Actually, Naruto... except for the hiding thing, you're pretty lousy at it. That was why we were never assigned any surveillance missions."
"But... but no-one ever caught me when I was hiding after pulling a prank, not even ANBU agents!" Naruto argued. "It was my best ninja skill as an academy student!"
"Hiding, maybe," Sakura admitted. "You're pretty good at that. But you were also too easily distracted, and that tended to make you noisier then you should have been for surveillance operations. But that was okay -- we were designed as a combat-style team, and Ino's team was designed for surveillance. Lee and Neji's team were combat style, as well. Kiba and Shino's team were surveillance-oriented... although they were pretty balanced, yes, but they were intended to perform surveillance operations, and did so better then just about anyone in our academy class."
"Hey! We did pretty good," Ino protested.
"You did," Sakura admitted. "But you weren't quite as good as they were, nonetheless. Your team could do the job, but your target typically knew you had been there. Shino's team... would do the same job, but do it without anyone knowing they'd ever been there. Bugs, dog noses, the byakugan -- they were all methods of observing the enemy without letting them know they've been observed. Your technique works pretty good, but... most people notice when they've had their brains gone through. Like I did during the Chuunin exam, you cheater!"
Ino blinked. "I didn't think you knew about that -- you didn't say anything!"
"I knew something wierd had happened," Sakura replied. "But I didn't know what... and I was a bit distracted because my boyfriend over here was too busy sweating bullets because he didn't know the answers and didn't understand that he was supposed to cheat! I realized it had happened, though, when you tried it a second time during our preliminary match-- what?"
Naruto was looking at her with an expression of... disbelief? She hadn't quite ever seen him look like that, before, but she wasn't sure what had come over him. His mouth was wide open as if in shock, and his eyes were tearing up with happy tears as if someone had promised him a lifetime supply of ramen. "Sakura-chan..."
"What?" Sakura snapped, getting impatient.
"You called him your boyfriend," Ino pointed out when it appeared certain that Naruto was incapable of answering. "Which really shouldn't have come as such a shock to him, given how the two dates you guys have been on have gone, but I don't think he ever expected to hear you ever use that word when talking about him." She set down the two lists she had been reading, grabbed her own class paperwork, and stood up. "I think you two need to talk some things through, so I'll leave you guys alone for now. I'm going to be locking you out of the apartment, tonight, Sakura-chan, so you'd better stay here tonight -- I know you've got everything you need here already, including a change of clothes and a toothbrush. I'm not trying to make you do anything you aren't ready for, but I'm not going to let you use the 'It's getting late and I need to go home' excuse to get out of talking this over with him."
Sakura's eyes widened. "But--"
"No buts," Ino snapped. "I know that we've talked about this from time to time, but I don't think the two of you ever have. It's time -- at least let him know where you stand, and where he stands, and what that all means, okay?" Not waiting for an answer, she stood proudly and marched out of the apartment, closing the door behind her.
Sakura stared at the closed door, unable to believe what her friend was doing to her. She wasn't ready for this kind of talk, and Naruto... and Naruto deserved to know, just like Ino said. God, she thought. He needs to know, but how do I even begin to explain this to him? She turned to look at him, and saw he hadn't moved since she'd called him her boyfriend. He almost seemed to have passed out, but his eyes were open and appeared focused enough to not indicate unconsciousness. Hmm... she mused. This must be what emotionally induced clinical shock looks like. Tsunade told me about this, but I've never seen it before.
She'd been told a number of remedies for it, but there was only one which offered no risk to either the patient or the medi-nin -- in this case, her. Resolves, she looked him in the face, judged the proper amount of energy required, and began the technique.
"Ow!" Naruto exclaimed, mid-flight from her devastatingly powerful slap. As she had judgde, it was an appropriate amount of force to knock him out of his shock. It was almost enough force to knock him out completely, in fact, but thanks to his incredible durability and stamina, he was able to shrug it off in mere moments. "What was that for?"
"Sorry," Sakura smirked, not really feeling very sorry at all. It felt good to vent a little, especially since he was the cause of her problems at the moment. Well, actually, she was just as much the source of her problems as he was, but slapping him around was much more likely to improve her mood then slapping herself around -- if only momentarily, and he really had needed to be slapped out of his stupor. It was a perfectly viable technique for this purpose, and besides -- Naruto could take it, and had taken worse from her before. Maybe there was a little twinge of guilt that she was taking all of her frustrations out on him, but not much -- he was going to be glad of it, before too long, she hoped. And she was going to try and get out of the habit of slapping him around -- really! But this was a special case.
Finally back to his senses, he looked at her a little hesitantly. "Did you really... uh, did I hear you say..."
"Yes, Naruto-kun," she finally sighed, taking pity on him. "I think of you as my boyfriend. Sort of, anyway."
The elation which was dawning on his face fell into confusion. "Huh? What does 'sort of' mean?"
Sakura opened her mouth for a few moments to answer, but found she couldn't. "I... I don't really know, myself," she admitted. "But maybe I could explain in a way that will help us both understand."
"Okay," Naruto said, sitting straight and looking up at her patiently. It occured to Sakura that this was how he looked when he was waiting for a lesson of some sort -- he'd looked just this way when he was listening to her tips for the tree climbing exercise, all those years ago. It reminded her both of how much he had changed and how much he had stayed the same. She smiled slightly.
"I want you to understand something, Naruto," she said gently. "I love Sasuke-kun. You know that, right?"
Naruto looked down. "Yeah," he answered, sounding defeated.
"The thing is..." Sakura began, then stopped. She wasn't quite sure how to explain what she was feeling. "I don't want you to think I'm leading you on, okay? I just want you to remember that -- because that is the problem. See, Naruto -- I think you're a great guy. I love being with you, I've truly enjoyed our dates, and I'm starting to think better of you then I did of Sasuke-kun. But... I love Sasuke-kun. The thing is... I'm not sure if I'm really in love with him, still."
Naruto looked up, confused. "But... what does that mean?"
"I may only be in love with a memory," Sakura admitted. "I can't tell if what I feel for him is real or not, because... he isn't here. He's gone, and he hurt you and me and just about everyone else who cared for him when he left. Until and unless I see him, again, I won't ever know if I really still love him. But... I'm not sure I ever will see him again, or if I do if he'll still be the same Sasuke I was in love with. I need to go on with my life, however... and you're becoming what I need to do so."
That put a happy smile on Naruto's face. If there was one thing which made him happier then anything else in the world, it was having the ability to make his 'Sakura-chan' happy, to help her, to make her feel good. He just wished he were eloquent enough to put into words what that made him feel. Instead, all he could say was, "Oh... wow, Sakura-chan! I... I'm so glad I can help you!" he finally said.
"You aren't 'helping' me, Naruto-kun," Sakura rebuked mildly, shaking her head. "Saying that all you're doing is 'helping' diminishes what you really are doing for me. When I go on a date with you..." She walked over to him, and pulled him into her arms. He looked astonished, but she didn't let that stop her. "When I hold you... when the time comes that I kiss you... I don't want you to think that all I'm doing is using you to 'help' me. I am sincerely trying to make a new life for myself... and I think you may become a major part of it." She released him and pulled back. Naruto's legs buckled and he fell to his knees, staring up at her. "So if I call you my boyfriend... well, it's because you are. We're dating, now, and dating may lead to other things, eventually. But I do still love Sasuke-kun, Naruto-kun, and that makes things so hard for us." For more reasons then I can say, she thought.
Naruto nodded, a smile on his face nevertheless. "I knew it wouldn't be easy. People always think that my dream of becoming hokage is silly, because they think I believe I can do it easily... but they're wrong. I know how hard it'll be to become hokage. It took me twelve years of my life to get just one person to recognize and respect me as I need people to if I were to ever become hokage -- yet I never gave up my dream. I've made friends a lot faster since then, but there still aren't many people who wouldn't celebrate if I died." He said this so matter-of-factly that Sakura flinched, but he took no notice of it. "I know that becoming hokage seems impossible for someone like me... but I will still become it! I will never give up, and I will be hokage." He grinned at her. "Just as I will never give up on you, Sakura-chan. I will always be faithful, and will always love you, no matter who you decide you love or what you do with or to me... so anything you give me in return, I am very grateful to recieve."
Sakura blinked away a couple tears. "Oh, Naruto-kun!" she sighed, jumping into his arms. She paused there, unsure if she really should take the next step -- it would only make things harder on both of them if she had to pull back again. In the end, though, she knew he deserved the reward, whatever the consequences -- she had never heard him speak so eloquently, or so passionately, and it was all directed at her. "Remember what I said about there being a time coming that I kiss you? I think that time is now."
* * * * *
Notes: Well, I'm still on jury duty, but I got this chapter finished before the end of the week Everyone who's been complaining about the NaruSaku romance moving too slowly, here you go. It ain't the BIG moment I have planned for them, but it should be enough of a little moment to tide you over for a while. Don't expect them to be kissing very often, for a while -- their relationship is still very much in its infancy, and of course there will be setbacks and roadblocks along the way. I don't plan to show too many of those setbacks and roadblocks, but expect comic bickering on occasion (I might try to balance out the bickering scenes with the kissing scenes, but I don't actually know if there'd be a point to that many kissing scenes at this stage -- trust me, things get a LOT better between them before the end.). To the person who said 'forget jury duty, just get the next chapter written,' um, sorry -- I'm not going to jail just to finish the next chapter of a fanfic a day or two earlier. By the way... I've always been curious: I know that Naruto failed his Academy test three times because he couldn't perform the Bushin no Jutsu... so just how in hell did Rock Lee pass? I came up with my own method for him to have done it, but I really wonder how he was supposed to have managed it. Was he given some sort of special dispensation or something? A real puzzler, that one. Also, the thing about the sealing technique not killing the user if he's a shadow clone -- that was my personal explanation as to why the kage bushin was part of the sealing scroll in the first place. It isn't canon, though -- I don't think -- so don't assume it is. It's just a possibility... (and one which I think has some evidence to support it, in the Orochimaru-Third Battle. Only the shadow clones had the seal on their chest after they used the technique, don't forget... but that may or may not mean anything. It's just an idea -- if the user doesn't have a soul to begin with (because they're a clone) then there's nothing shikigami can take.). As to why a mizu bushin wouldn't work for it... well, there's no real explanation why not. It's just that I figured they had to have some differences between the two, or they wouldn't be different techniques. By the way... this scene ran MUCH longer then I anticipated, so what I said was coming for this chapter (namely, the first day of teaching for Ino, Sakura, and Naruto) will be bumped to the next.