Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 13 ( Chapter 23 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: Notes will appear in a new format as of this chapter, by request. Please remember that I have adjusted Anko's age from what the data books list, since I believe the data book to be wrong for multiple reasons. She is thirty-nine at this point of the fic, and should be treated as such, so don't complain to me because the 'twenty-four year old' is starting to grow wrinkles, okay? If it's later proven that the data book was right, then I suppose that would make this fic very (very) mildly AU, but so be it. Also, many of you understood why I included the little bit of Sakura monologue, but there were still a few questions... so there's a bit more internal monologue by Sakura to more fully explain her feelings. I feel this is a bit redundant, since I did the same thing last chapter, but I can include it without much difficulty. If this doesn't explain her behavior to your satisfaction, I'm sorry -- I tried. Anything more will get in the way of the rest of the story, and will just make it longer before this particular conflict is resolved, so... here goes. Also, I KNEW Sakura meant 'cherry blossom,' not just blossom, but I wasn't trying to say it was. If someone believed otherwise, my apologies. Also, someone commented that Naruto wasn't training -- not true. He's just not doing enough training for it to appear 'on camera.' I've mentioned (briefly) that he's doing about three hours of training every morning -- not enough to develop new skills, but more just to maintain his current level -- and Sakura has been shown to be learning the odd genjutsu technique. They both are also using their training in order to teach, set up hospitals, etc, and have been sparring with Jiraiya in at least one scene. In this chapter, they're finally starting preparations for meeting Sasuke, so I think you'll see that they're not exactly 'not training,' but are instead learning the practical use of what they already know. Enjoy!
Chapter 13
EDITS MADE 7/28/05 due to about... oh, twenty people mentioning the same nitpicky error. Ack.
Sakura and Naruto met up early, together, on the day of their first training session with Anko. They had done the same the previous week, only to seperate again when Sakura had to, instead, rush Anko to the newly set up hospital for treatment. Now, however, it was fairly certain that the middle-aged woman would be able to conduct the lesson, even if she would be taking it easy while still recovering her health. Instead of heading straight for the Academy building (as their training session would be in the indoor gym, that day, out of respect for Anko's health), they instead went first to Inuzuka Hana's house. Both of them wanted the young jounin and her team to work with them in their academy lessons over the next couple of weeks, Naruto especially. All too often, he was getting the question, "Doesn't every ninja know these techniques? If so, what good are they?" He wanted to give them a demonstration with a mock tournament, and Hana was who he had chosen as his opponent. Sakura hadn't been quite sure what to make of that -- she knew she shouldn't be jealous, as loyal as Naruto repeatedly demonstrated himself to be, but thoughts of what Jiraiya might have done to his psyche over the years did bear heavily on her mind from time to time. Was he picking Hana because he felt she could give the best demonstration, or because she was the only attractive young woman (other then herself or Ino, but she neglected to remind herself of that) who was qualified to work with him? When Naruto gave her his explanation -- his promise to Kiba -- she had relaxed. Still, it had her wondering about herself: She had yet to fully commit herself to him, after all, yet he had fully committed himself to her. So why was she the one worried about him cheating?
Deep down, Sakura knew the answer, and wasn't too proud of herself for it. She was looking for an excuse she could use to drop Naruto when she finally had her shot with Sasuke, again... and she couldn't find it. Naruto was ideal, for her, he just wasn't Sasuke... and that was the problem. Yet even Sasuke wasn't the Sasuke she loved, or else he never would have left for Orochimaru. But then, there were the secrets of the Uchiha family and the mangekyou sharingan, copied down on her own family scrolls and hidden so that the Uchiha could no longer cover up thier shame entirely. She knew what drove Sasuke, and she knew that there was a cure for it... and that she could be that cure. But still... she was trying to find a reason to sacrifice what she knew she had with Naruto, just to have a chance at curing Sasuke -- to have a chance to make him into the Sasuke she believed he was... but who, perhaps, had never existed. And she was having a very hard time doing it.
Nevertheless, she joined him in pleading with Hana for her help. She, too, could use some help with a demonstration (albeit not as dramatic a demonstration as Naruto was planning), and was considering asking for her help in setting up a veterinary wing at the hospital, and it would be easier convincing Hana to do it if the two of them were together. That it would allow Hana's team to do something was a bit of a bonus, as well -- they had grown rather restless over the time spent in Blossom doing nothing but basic training exercises, and needed something to do. Blossom had started taking missions, it was true, but it was still a small trickle of business. Two missions had been given out -- one to Shiranui Genma's team (the 'guarding athletes during a riot' mission, which turned out to be a waste of time as the fans hadn't rioted as expected. Blossom still recieved its promised pay, however), and one class D assignment given to Ebisu's team to help out at a small farm. Both other teams had returned, and as certain members of Hana's team had part-time jobs in Blossom (most notably Hyuuga Hanabi's tutoring of Adaha) it was deemed that her team wouldn't go out unless the other two were busy... so it seemed highly unlikely they would have much to do for some time.
After getting Hana's reluctant agreement to show up for their classes, the pair made their way to their own training session. When they arrived in the gymnasium, they noticed that Anko was there ahead of them, kneeling and meditating. Signs of her recent illness were still quite apparent on her face, showing in the depth of the laugh lines and crows feet and other types of wrinkles that had started developing just this past year. Circles under her eyes spoke of her exhaustion, and her hair was a wreck -- even by her usual standards. She didn't look well, at all.
"Are you sure you're well enough for this, Anko-sensei?" Sakura asked in greeting, taking a close look with the enhanced senses of her medi-nin training.
"Well," she croaked, before descending into a coughing fit. "I don't think we'll be doing any sparring or anything like that, today. At least I won't. But you both already have the basic skills you need -- Naruto-san, Jiraiya-sama says you're more powerful then him. Kakashi figures you only need to practice what you already know, and to develop your innate talent for genjutsu, and you'll be even better then hokage-sama, Sakura-san. You don't need my help in the power department... what you need is my help in knowing how your enemy fights."
Naruto shrugged. "But I've fought both Sasuke and Orochimaru -- I know how they fight!"
Anko raised an eyebrow. "I've heard of your fights with Orochimaru. You haven't really fought him -- trust me on that. As far as the Uchiha goes... he's got the sharingan, and he'll have been taught by Orochimaru for years -- he won't be the same Sasuke as you knew. He won't fight the same, he won't act the same, and he won't think the same. I know... what Sasuke's going through now, I went through more than a decade ago. My own comrades of that time were unable to recognize how I fought when I finally returned to them."
"You had the cursed seal, too?" Naruto asked, astonished. Unlike Sakura, he hadn't known of the problem which kept Anko isolated from her fellow Konoha ninja.
"Had it? I still have it!" Anko huffed. "I have a little control over it, though, and I never took the 'mind pill' that was offered to me, so I still have my free will. I was the first person to recieve it, in fact -- a 'test subject' to determine if it would work. I and several others... yet I was the only survivor."
"What happened to the others?" Sakura asked, horrified. She knew of the cursed seal, but didn't know anything else about this story.
"Dead," the jounin spat. "Very dead. I confronted Orochimaru... much later, and found that only ten percent of those who recieve his 'gift' survive. I'm not sure if the survivors are the lucky ones or not, though...."
"Anko-sensei..." Sakura said sympathetically.
"Never mind all that," Anko snorted, regaining some of her energy. "I've got to talk with you a bit about how Orochimaru operates. This isn't going to be a very pleasant lecture, let me tell you -- largely because I know how close the two of you were to the Uchiha brat, and I know what Orochimaru must have done to him. This is going to hurt the both of you, but it should help you, too." She glanced at Sakura. "Especially you, girl."
"Me?" Sakura replied, startled.
"Yes, you. Oh, sure, I could give you a whole long list of the techniques he's taught me -- hidden snake hands, double snake destroyer, and so on. Lots of ninjitsu, lots of kinjutsu, a few genjutsu, even some taijutsu... but what would that matter? Sasuke is an Uchiha with the sharingan, and Orochimaru has dedicated his life to learning every technique there is. I'm sure in the decade since he trained me, he's learned thousands of new techniques which would astonish me," Anko sighed. "If you spend all your time trying to find the weaknesses of their techniques, you're bound to fail. There are too many of them to even try -- your only bet is to hope you can execute your moves better then he executes his, which will be a hard thing to do. The only way to do it... is to know how he thinks. Which is why I'm here."
"So you aren't going to teach us any new techniques?" Naruto pouted. "But I thought--"
"I didn't say I wouldn't," Anko laughed... until she started coughing. "But, obviously, it will be some time before I can get to that. In the meantime, what I do have to teach you will be much more invaluable in the coming battle."
"Let's get on with it," Sakura said, stepping over to the woman. "Start your lecture... but while you do, I'm going to be giving you a check-up. That cough sounds worse then it should."
"I'll be fine," Anko said before another coughing fit. "Damn. I hate this. I lose something of myself when I get sick like this."
Sakura paused. "What does that mean?"
"It gets harder to fight the cursed seal," Anko explained. "So I have a harder time being my normal chipper self. Doesn't matter, though -- with what I've got to talk with you about, I probably would have had a hard time remaining 'chipper,' anyway. We need to talk about a number of things. One of which being... I've heard that the two of you are dating, now. Is that true?"
Sakura blinked, looking at Naruto. He, in turn, was looking back expectantly at her -- apparently, he was going to let her field this question. "Uh... yeah, we are. We started dating quite recently, but yes."
Anko nodded, smiling slightly. "That's not a bad thing, but be careful. Orochimaru... exploited a relationship I had with someone special, once. He convinced me that the boy was no good for me, and then took advantage of that to... to convince a fourteen year old girl that becoming the 'lover' of a twenty nine year old sannin was a step up. And he used me, because I was so 'in love' with him, as a weapon... first, against the man who became the Fourth, for he always hated Jiraiya's top student, and then against the Third. I finally left when he was trying to convince me to commit suicide for him to study the chakra in death, in his hunt for immortality. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a horrible situation... all because I thought I was 'in love' with him."
Sakura winced. There were a lot of parallels with her own situation in that story -- she remembered the things she had told Sasuke she was willing to do for him, just to keep him in Konoha. The only difference was... Sasuke hadn't wanted her as a weapon, yet Orochimaru wanted Anko. Perhaps there were advantages to having been too weak to really contribute much, back then -- if Sasuke had really felt that she would be useful in his revenge, would she now be a missing nin merely awaiting the day when Orochimaru would decide to end her life? Or had Sasuke actually decided not to take her because he wanted to spare her that fate?
Naruto also wasn't too happy about that. He loved Sakura, but even though they were dating he was well aware that she wanted Sasuke instead. Under normal circumstances, as long as it truly made her happy, he'd let her go to be with him and smile for her. If there was a chance, though, that Sasuke would do something like that... but would Sasuke even consider it? Not the Sasuke Naruto knew... but then, hadn't Anko just explained that this wouldn't be the Sasuke he knew? The dilema left Naruto not quite knowing what to do, any more, if Sakura still wanted to go to the other boy... to make Sakura happy by letting her go with him, or to protect Sakura by keeping her away from him?
"Anko-sensei," Sakura began, wanting to know just how far the parallels between them went. "If... if he hadn't tried to make you kill yourself, would you still be with him?"
Anko thought long and hard about how to answer that. The truth was, yes, she probably would have. Knowing what she did, now, though... she was glad things turned out the way they did. However, she was well aware of how close to her own situation was to the girl's, and knew that the truth would be the wrong answer. A lie, however, might be an even worse answer. "When I was still recovering from the shock of realizing just what Orochimaru had done to me, I went to meet the old boyfriend who he had turned me against. I talked things out with him, and we got back together... and he was one of the very few people who did not look at me as 'stained' by having been Orochimaru's lover. Then... kyuubi killed him." She glanced at Naruto, and saw him flinch. "And I thought that the only other person whose life I cared about was lost, then, too. If I was a bit hard on you during the chuunin exam, Naruto-kun, it was because of that. Nevertheless, if I had known what life would have been like in the short time my old boyfriend and I were together, I never would have accepted Orochimaru's advances in the first place. As it is, I deeply regret pursuing the 'love' of someone who, even as I lay in his bed, I could tell didn't love me... while someone who did would have done his everything to make me happy. Would I have still been with Orochimaru now? Well... truth is, I probably would have been dead, by now -- I would never have been able to live that life forever. I would have tried, believing that my 'love' for him would eventually turn him into the man I thought he was... but it never would have, and I would have wasted away until I died."
A suspicion crossed Sakura's mind. "Who was your boyfriend?"
"You would not recognize his name," Anko replied. "It was not well known, and his clan has been dead since kyuubi's attack. Now, we should move on--"
"No!" Sakura snapped, suddenly enraged. She knew it -- she had to be right. She just had to. "What was his name? Give me his name, or so help me...."
"Sakura-chan!" Naruto cried, bewildered. "Calm down!"
"Naruto-kun," Sakura whispered, turning her eyes to him as she was reminded of his presence. "Naruto-kun... I think this is very important. I need to know that man's name... and I think you do, too."
Anko took a deep, raspy breath, then started coughing. Her color greyed, and suddenly Sakura's attention returned to her. "Don't worry," the jounin coughed again. "I think you know the truth, Sakura-san, but this is not the time or place to discuss things. And do not let anyone else know...."
"Anko... I will not give this up," Sakura growled. "Give me his name."
Both women stared each other down, eye to eye. Finally, not leaving Sakura's gaze, Anko commanded, "Naruto... leave. This is a secret which you should not know."
"No, Naruto-kun. Stay. You need to hear this, too," Sakura demanded. "If I'm right, then this is something she should be telling you, not me!"
Naruto hesitated. "Sakura-chan... what is it you think she has to say?"
"Don't answer that, Sakura-san," Anko coughed. "Please... I will explain my reasons, but he cannot know this yet. Please!"
Sakura evaluated the situation in her head. She was almost certain, now, of her suspicions... and Naruto definitely deserved to know them, if she was correct. But she would never know if she was correct unless Anko confirmed it... which she was unlikely to do, it seemed, unless Naruto was out of the room. To make matters worse... the other woman was getting sicker. The illness grew almost visibly the moment she demanded the name, and her health declined the more they talked about it. Perhaps... perhaps it was best to do as she said. For now.
"Fine. Naruto-kun... I guess you should go. Head over to the hospital, and let them know I will be bringing in a patient suffering from a relapse of pneumonia in a few minutes. If I decide her reasons for keeping this from you aren't justified, I'll go ahead and tell you... and if I don't tell you, rest assured I feel that you are better off not knowing. Okay?" she finally said.
"Okay, Sakura-chan," he replied, scratching the back of his head in confusion. "If you say so. I don't really have a clue what's going on, anyway...."
As soon as the door closed behind him, Anko sighed and fell back into a more relaxed position. "Thank you, Sakura-san. I appreciate you at least giving me a chance to explain."
"Yes," Sakura nodded coldly, taking a seat next to the woman, her back ramrod straight with the tension she was feeling. "I'd do some medical ninjitsu on you to help restore some of your health, but at the moment I'm afraid my temper would get the best of me and I'd do you injury, instead. So please, Anko-sensei, explain to me just why Naruto isn't supposed to know... that you're his only living relative, and in fact are his mother?"
Anko closed her eyes, shaking her head sadly. "Arashi of the Uzumaki clan, sometimes known as the Fourth, was his father... and yes, I am, indeed, his mother. He cannot know that, however... nor can anyone else in the village, either. For his own good."
"Please," Sakura snorted. "Enlighten me as to how a boy who has never known the love of a family would be better off not knowing who his mother is?"
"Simple," Anko replied. "If his mother were such a stain on Konoha that it would cause him to lose all the respect he has gained in the sixteen years of his life that he has worked to build enough of a reputation that he can actually function in society. He has taught people, now, that he isn't the kyuubi -- or at least isn't just the kyuubi. I didn't realize that, myself... and I'm ashamed of it. I abandoned my son as a baby because I believed him to have been destroyed, sacrificed to the same creature that killed my lover and his father -- his body might have still been alive, but his soul... I didn't think his soul stood a chance of being his own, any more. The first time I'd ever seen him was that day... I tasted his blood. I'll let you in on a little secret -- one of the things Orochimaru succeeded in teaching me was how to record an 'imprint' of someone's mind by tasting their blood. It's not exactly perfect -- I cannot search memories, nor predict what his emotions are or what he believes. I can, however, memorize his chakra patterns... and, if I spend enough time to distinguish between the different 'flavors' of his blood, look into his soul." She shook her head. "I should have known, then, not to stay with that bastard... I knew from the moment he taught me that trick that he had a dark soul."
Sakura couldn't believe what she was hearing. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"I could taste it!" Anko explained, reaching out and grabbing Sakura's arm in a spurt of energy. "I knew... I knew, after I spent the time to look at it, that Naruto was still my son. And I was ashamed that I hadn't raised him... but even more ashamed that I couldn't approach him, even now. He has built a life by overcoming the stigma of kyuubi, and convincing people that he was not the beast. I cannot add to that stigma by announcing, all of a sudden, that he is my son... that would ruin his dreams, and I cannot allow that. I'd place the decision in his hands, but what could be more cruel to him, then to tell him he has a mother... but, unless he wants to give up all of his dreams, he can never associate with her, and can never tell anybody about her?"
"Anko-sensei, I'm not sure--"
"Please, Sakura-san!" Anko begged. "Tell me. Would you torture him by making him choose between his love for you, and his dreams to become hokage?"
Sakura winced. "No. But he wouldn't choose -- he'd have both."
Anko sighed, shaking her head. "He might try to take both, but he would never succeed. Why do you think Arashi and I were never able to get married? We would have, you know -- he was already hokage, he wouldn't have lost anything. The Advisors, however... the Advisors said he could never be hokage and marry me. They would expel him from the ranks of Konoha nin if he were to marry me. The Advisors must approve of the hokage's selection... if they wouldn't let me marry a man who was hokage, what makes you think they would allow my son to become hokage? Especially if he had the problems he already has with kyuubi being sealed inside him?"
It was suddenly a much harder decision for Sakura to make. Keep Naruto's dream alive -- a dream he actually seemed to have succeeded in (even if he didn't know it, yet), according to Tsunade -- or destroy it forever but give him a mother? Sighing, Sakura began her medical treatment. "I suppose I've calmed down enough to do this right. Tell me, Anko-sensei... do you think there is any time when he might know that you are his mother?"
"After he's hokage, I suppose," Anko snorted. "If that ever happens."
"It will," Sakura replied.
"Maybe. No-one ever thought Arashi would make hokage, either -- least of all me -- but he proved us all wrong. I wouldn't put it past his son to do the same...."
"Anko-sensei," Sakura began, using her chakra to isolate the damage to the lungs which turned out not to be entirely pneumonia, but actually pneumonia-induced bronchitis. "Perhaps you cannot tell him he is your son, yet. You will, one day, however -- because he has already proved all of us doubters wrong. I got the word from Tsunade-shishou herself: He will be named the Sixth hokage, if he still wants the job, when she retires. I suspect he will... and I also suspect that you will be alive to see that, assuming I complete this treatment properly. If you don't tell him this secret then, I will. So he will know you are his mother... but there is something I want you to promise me, first."
"Even if you cannot admit to being his mother, I want you to be his mother. Treat him kindly, give him motherly advice, be his friend if nothing else. He has never known the love of a parent, and almost all of the adult role-models who don't spit at him when they see him coming are males -- Kakashi-sensei, Jiraiya-sama, Iruka-sensei, Gai-san... the only female role model he associates with regularly is Tsunade-shishou. I love my master dearly -- she's almost like an aunt or an uncle, sometimes -- but she does not make the best example of a mother figure. Niether do you... but perhaps you could work on that a bit."
Anko sighed. "Why do you think I came? I want to help you guys live through this, I want revenge on Orochimaru... but mostly, I want to get to know my son, far away from where anyone would look down on him for associating with me. I'd have started that, sooner... but I've been too ill, since we returned, and I'm still not healthy. And I won't be able to when my health returns, either -- I'll be too busy beating the crap out of the both of you, trying desperately to prepare you for something no-one can really be prepared for. When the crap with that Uchiha brat and Orochimaru have settled, then maybe. Until then, however, I can't."
Sakura winced. "He may need more help, then, than you know. I... if we can capture Sasuke-kun, I know how to save him from Orochimaru's mental control and the Uchiha madness which caused him to abandon his principles and search for Orochimaru in the first place. It will mean I have to break up with Naruto-kun to do it, however...."
Anko looked shocked for a moment, then shook her head. "Girl... I like you with my son. If you leave him, though, to save that traitor... I'm going to hate you. I hope you know that."
The pink haired kunoichi swallowed nervously. "Anko-sensei... I don't know what to do. I loved Sasuke-kun first. I devoted my life to him, before we were even genin. I became a ninja to be with him, I destroyed the relationship with the only childhood friend I ever had because she liked him too, and I nearly got five people killed trying to keep him around when he didn't want to stay. And that was before I knew that I could be the key which would save him from insanity... yet despite all of that, I'm still not sure what I'll do when he shows. I... Naruto-kun is a great man. I may even love him, in a way... but I cannot let go of Sasuke-kun. My heart is torn... but whatever I decide, I am going to do the best I can to minimize whatever hurt Naruto experiences -- if he's hurt because I leave him, I will do what I can to soothe that pain. If something else tries to hurt him, I will do everything in my power to protect him. But... right now, I cannot forsake Sasuke-kun for him. I...."
Anko closed her eyes and sighed. "You don't have to explain. I understand. I didn't say I would kill you, or that I would do anything to stop you... just that I would hate you. Because, whatever your reason, you would still be hurting my boy."
Sakura hated herself, right then. "Naruto knows -- or at least, he knows part of it. He expects me to go with Sasuke-kun when he returns. I expect to go with Sasuke-kun, as well. But I don't know... I just don't know. To my mind, picking Naruto over Sasuke is killing one boy I love in order to make a boy I'm not sure about happy. To pick Sasuke over Naruto, I am saving the life of a boy I love, and doing what a boy who loves me expects of me. It'll hurt him, I know... but I can't help it! I just... I don't know what to do." She paused. "If I keep this up, I'm going to start crying. I don't want to be crying when I get you to the hospital, so let's go."
"All right, Sakura-san," Anko sighed, standing up with some difficulty. "If you're sure. But if you take that Uchiha brat over Naruto, you will be travelling down the same dark path I did all those years ago... and trust me, girl -- in the end, whatever happens with the Uchiha, you will regret it."
* * * * *
Notes: Meh... I'm actually not too happy with this chapter. At one point, I revealed more than I wanted to about something (about what, I won't say), but I can't figure out how to get rid of it and keep the story flowing. Ah, well... at least that's over. Next chapter, Naruto and Inuzuka Hana spar. Until then...