Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 14 ( Chapter 24 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: Apparently, I was worse then usual last chapter about certain mistakes -- writing 'father' instead of 'mother' at least once, 'Sasuke' instead of 'Naruto' at least once, and so forth. Oops. All I can say is I goofed. I've done it before, and likely will do it again before this things over, but I didn't even notice until it was pointed out to me. I did point out at the beginning this was a one-draft fic, did I not? (Surely you people don't believe I MEANT for Anko to say she was Naruto's father, do you? Sheesh.... I think I had a record number of reviews this chapter (after writing this, I checked. Indeed, I had more reviews for that last chapter then any other, so far. This is as of about 12 hours from posting... which means, since I suspect this may be a two-day or even three-day length chapter, it should be well over that record before I post this), and just about every one of them mentioned that silly goof! Most of the rest at least mentioned the 'Sasuke' instead of 'Naruto' good. Ack! Hmm... maybe I should include an error like this every chapter, just to inspire the reviews... heh heh heh.) Ah, well -- that very minor correction added with chapter re-upload simultaneous with this chapter. Um, in the future, could you all remember I said this was supposed to be a one draft fic? Twenty plus reviews telling me that I need to change a single word or two is very convincing, but... it's also a bit, ah, startling. I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Um... okay, I guess typing 'I'm sorry' for every review mentioning I need to fix this would be ridiculous. You get the idea, though. Someone commented that Sakura's curiousity about Naruto's lineage wasn't well founded. I say they need to reread volume two, where she's constantly wondering just how the Uzumaki's were related to her family, and what became of that clan. It hadn't come up in a while, true, but it had been established. She wasn't exactly 'actively searching' for information, at the time, but she was the only person who had the background to be able to take Anko's story and puzzle it out -- she knew of the kyuubi, she knew a little about Anko, she had seen the hokage's records for a number of things, and then she heard Anko's story. She also knew that the Uzumaki name wasn't spoken of, much, any more -- remember that she's seen the Haruno clan records, which have been shown to reveal things which have been censored out of the government records. She knows more then anyone else... and so, when the pieces fell into place for her, suddenly -- instead of being an orphan -- Naruto was an abandoned child, and the abandoner was right in front of her. I think I'd flip if I encountered a similar situation involving my own girlfriend, and Sakura's got more of a temper then I do. People are starting to say, 'Hey, even if it's temporary, you should pair Naruto off with someone else for a while (to make Sakura jealous\to help alleviate Sakura's guilt\etc., etc.)' Er... no. Sorry. That's the POINT -- Naruto's undying loyalty is the point; and breaking it right now, so close to the end of Sakura's indecisiveness, would only extend the madness. Sorry, no. At this point, I've already basically said 'if it weren't for what's written in the Haruno family scrolls about the Uchiha, she would have given up on Sasuke already.' Since you don't know what's on those scrolls yet, I can't exactly explain everything. The point is being hammered home for the exact opposite reason many of you seem to think -- she's not trying to push it at everyone, she's trying to convince herself it's worth it. Have patience, my readers -- Naruto wins out, and it'll be soon enough. And you won't need to worry about Sakura's 'Sasuke-complex,' as some call it, again... until the matter is resolved once and for all. (You may have a couple rocky patches between the two, but Sasuke will not be mentioned in any way that matters, again (beyond something like 'still training for Sasuke's arrival,' that is) until I'm ready to resolve the matter. Also, I didn't exactly say that I felt my last chapter was BAD (although, apparently, it was, considering how many people were beating the 'you said Anko is Naruto's Father' over my head), but rather I didn't like it because I felt it gave away some things I wanted to hold back too early. No-one seems to have commented on that part of the chapter, though, so maybe it was subtle enough that it's easily overlooked. I hope so....
Chapter 14
Word of the coming 'mock tournament' during Naruto's class had gone around the village, so by the time of his class there was quite a crowd of interested spectators present. Sakura was there -- ostensibly to provide any emergency medical treatment required, but more because she was interested in seeing Naruto participate. Anko was there, as well, as were Kakashi, Ebisu and Genma's groups, Asuma, and even Sakura's parents. There were only two people Sakura could think of who were missing this tournament -- Ino, who was out of town working with the Wave to develop a new cipher, and Yuugao.
The absence of the ANBU girl was mildly disturbing for Sakura. She had been able to pry a couple of simple genjutsu techniques from the woman, but outside of that it seemed as if her 'genjutsu specialist' instructor wasn't willing to associate with... well, anyone. She was concerned for the woman, but what could she do? Yuugao had been sent on this mission as a rehabilitation assignment, but it appeared she just didn't want to be rehabilitated. Sakura wondered if she should talk with Kakashi some more, about it -- she really needed to learn genjutsu if she wanted to be involved in the combat end of any assault against Orochimaru. Her medical ninjitsu made her a threat, as did her enhanced strength (which was derived from her medical ninjitsu), but that just brought her to the level of, perhaps, your average elite jounin. Orochimaru was on another level, entirely... so she needed something to boost her from 'elite jounin' to... well, whatever level you called the one on which the sannin and their equals resided.
"You look troubled," Anko said, standing next to her.
Sakura smiled up at the woman. They had their differences, that was for sure, but she found she actually liked the woman... except for that thing about her hiding the truth from Naruto. Anko had said she liked her, as well, save for her attachment to Sasuke. "You look a lot healthier, yourself."
"I've had a good doctor," Anko laughed. "I'm not one hundred percent, but I think as long as I take it easy for a while I'll be fine."
Sakura ran a quick scan of the older woman. "Well... you won't be up to sparring this weekend, but you should be okay. Naruto and I could spar with Jiraiya again...."
She snorted. "Yeah, you do that with the old pervert. I don't particularly look forward to working with him again, though. He's as bad as Orochimaru, in some ways, he's just more... friendly. And I suppose he's on our side. But... well, I got sick of being his student decades before -- that's partly why Orochimaru was so easily able to take me away from his team."
"It was you, the Fourth, and... who was the other student?"
"Gensui-san? He... didn't exactly live very long once our team broke up. Jiraiya spent his time with Arashi trying to put him on the fast track to hokage, I was with Orochimaru in ANBU, and Gensui... figured he was better then the both of us, so he started taking solo missions. His head was mailed back to the Third, one day, without its body... although I never heard anything about who did it. I wasn't too upset about it -- he was a rather unpleasant person to deal with." She paused. "Think Gai, but evil."
Sakura winced just trying to wrap that concept around her head. Evil and Gai didn't even seem to fit in the same sentence. "That is... scary."
"I might have regretted his passing, more, if I weren't quite so... deluded, at the time. I can't really feel any sympathy for him, now, though," Anko sighed.
"Hey, Sakura-chan," Sakura's mother greeted. Slightly less cheery, she nodded to the other woman. "Anko-san."
"You know," the older Haruno began. "I think this will be the first time I've seen Naruto-san fight since he graduated from the Academy, himself."
"He's good, mom," Sakura answered. "He's... well, he may become the best ninja, ever, if he can just learn to hold his temper in a fight."
"Ah, but he's got a major disadvantage for this tournament," she noted.
"Oh?" Anko interjected. "What are the rules?"
"The three genin have no restrictions -- they can use whatever techniques they possess," Sakura explained. "All participants are required to treat thier opponent as a capture-but-do-not-kill target. The three genin and Naruto will have a mini-tournament, the winner of which gets to face Hana. Naruto is restricted to using basic taijutsu and only the henge, kawarimi, and bushin techniques. If one of the genin wins the tournament, Hana has to use that same restriction." She paused. "Doesn't matter -- Naruto-kun will win. None of the genin can knock him out. Hana might pose a bit of a problem -- I've never seen her fight, and don't know what she can do, but there have only been two people who've ever knocked Naruto-kun out: Orochimaru, back during our chuunin exam." Both she and Anko winced at the memory. "And Sasuke-kun."
"Naruto-san is a taijutsu specialist, isn't he?" Anko-san asked. "At least, that's what his files say."
Sakura grimmaced. "Well, he should be. He got early entry into the Academy because he was that good with taijutsu. He never had any instruction, though -- the 'teachers' never taught him anything, never worked with him, and so... well, he's got some raw skill, but it's underdeveloped. He boosted his speed over the two and a half years of training with Jiraiya-sama--"
"Drop the 'sama,' kid," Anko snorted. "Jiraiya's a good ninja, I'll grant him that, but until he stops being a pervert, he isn't worthy of 'sama.'"
"Jiraiya, then," Sakura laughed. "Naruto-kun calls him 'ero-sennin,' you know. Maybe it fits. Anyway, while we were planning this, Naruto told me half of his victories came from simple things -- basic taijutsu, henge, etc. Sure, the other, bigger, techniques set him up for victory, but often the 'knockout blow' came from something simple. He bested Zabuza with a simple henge and a lot of confusion, once. He beat Gaara of the Sand with first a headbutt, and then a flying kick. Kiba-san was disabled by an accidental, uh, fart. In each case, he admits he had to use better techniques to set it up -- with Zabuza, he needed to use his shadow clones to set up the distraction. With Gaara, he needed a lot of fight and a summoning technique in order to get into position to administer that headbutt. With Kiba, the fart only gave him time to set up a taijutsu combination technique involving his shadow clones. The point is, however, that his advanced techniques were not what won the day -- it was the basic, daily-grind kind of skills that gave him those victories. The more I learn about Naruto, the more I realize he's actually pretty smart -- it's just his bluster and clumsy, noisy presence gives him the mask of stupidity."
Anko laughed. "A bit like me, huh? I had some... bad times, in my life, as you both know. When I got past them, however, I found that -- while I was still a very good ninja -- I couldn't really stand life without being a little showy, which makes people underestimate me. People who don't know me, or at least know of me, assume I'm the weakest jounin in Konoha because of the way I act. In fact, I'm on par with Kakashi-san and Gai-san."
"Hm," was Sakura's only reply, as she tried to smother a comment which might give away the secret she had promised -- reluctantly -- to keep.
"I like that boy as if he were my own child," the older Haruno said, the innuendo barely being restrained in her voice, as she tried to bring them back on topic. "But I've never seen anything which seemed to hint that he was all that smart -- he seems to be about the same level of intelligence as your average ninja."
"He's bad with names, he has a terrible memory sometimes, he's clumsy, and he doesn't understand the word 'subtle,'" Sakura snorted. "But that doesn't mean he isn't smart. I'd say he isn't 'booksmart,' like me, and when faced with a situation that requires book smarts he freezes. Tactically, though? He's a genius. Possibly even Shikamaru's level, just a completely different kind of style. Or maybe not so different -- they both like to bluff a lot. The only difference is Naruto never explains when he's bluffing."
"Bullshit," Anko cried. "I've seen the charts. I like Naruto, I really do, you know that. But let's be realistic, here -- Shikamaru's chuunin exam had everyone evaluate him to be the best tactician of his age in Konoha history. His IQ is off the charts. He beats everyone in shogi and chess. He's... he's just not--"
"I'll make a bet with you," Sakura chirped. "Once we get the messenger service set up, we'll arrange for Naruto and Shikamaru to play a game of chess or something by mail. You can be the go between. If Shikamaru wins, I'll owe you a favor."
"And if you win?" Anko asked, intrigued but nervous at the same time. Would she ask her to reveal the secret?
"The ANBU girl -- Uzuki Yuugao. She's supposed to be teaching me genjutsu, but she's been so anti-social since we got here that I practically have to break down her door to get her to talk to me. I want you to help me get her out of the house enough to at least do a little instruction," Sakura replied.
Anko smirked. That, she could handle... and it might be fun, too. She'd have plenty of time to plan, anyway -- chess by mail would take weeks to play a complete game, and it would be almost a month before such a game could even be proposed to the Nara clan prodigy. This could get... interesting.
* * * * *
Naruto was a little astonished at the number of people who had come to witness this class, but he took it in stride. He knew just about everyone here, so at least he wasn't leading the class in front of a bunch of strangers -- that would be very awkward. "Okay, we're all ready to go, I think. Everyone knows the rules -- I explained them to you last class. I asked Haruno-san, here, to be the referee, and Sakura-chan will be our medic if anything goes wrong. I think it's safe to say something will go wrong, since we're all ninjas, but please try to keep it something she can handle, okay?" A few laughs of agreement came in answer, but that hardly reassured Naruto. "Right. Haruno-san, could you call the first match?"
"Sure thing," she said, stepping forwards. "First match -- Daichi versus Futaba. Take your places, and... begin."
Inuzuka Hana's team was a rare thing. In Konoha, the number of male ninja's easily outnumbered the number of kunoichi by two to one. On occasion, however, a graduating class didn't quite break along the standard two-to-one line, and a team like Hana's was born: Two girls, one boy. Daichi was the only male on her team, as Hana was (of course) a woman, as well -- which made a team structure like hers even rarer. Apparently, as she hadn't assigned Daichi to face Naruto in the first round, Sakura's mother didn't want to see a boys versus boys, girls versus girls kind of tournament. Shikamaru, Naruto mused, would be a bit annoyed.
The fight began rather slowly. They both were trying to circle each other, Gonta staying at Futaba's side. One thing Naruto noticed straight away was that this Inuzuka was a lot more patient then her male cousin. The other was that she didn't seem to want to involve her puppy quite as much, instead displaying a bit of a protective stance over the dog. He wasn't sure whether that was a feint or a weakness. He wasn't the best of observers -- his skill lay in acting fast, not in analyzing and figuring, and he really didn't know what either genin was capable of.
The stalemate was broken by Hana. "Hey, Futaba -- if you win, I'll finally give you those family facial tattoos!" she cheered.
"Really!?" Futaba chirped, her face bursting with happiness. She turned her head to split her peripheral vision between her sister and her opponent, her sudden happiness threatening to pull her attention away from the fight. "But I thought the pack leader said I couldn't get them until I became a chu--"
"I don't care what mom said," Hana snapped. "If it makes you fight that much harder to try and get them, then I'll use them as an incentive. She's the one who let Kiba get his before he was even an Academy Student! True, he was the first male of our clan to even be accepted to the Academy in over two decades, but that doesn't matter -- mom shouldn't forbid you to have them when she lets him get them."
"All right!" Futaba cheered, now turning her full attention back to Daichi. With a confident smirk appearing on her face, she taunted, "Come on, little Daichi-kun, let's dance! Tsuuga!"
It wasn't quite as impressive as Kiba's -- after all, he was more experienced, even just the first time Naruto saw it, and he was both larger and stronger then his cousin. It was, however, very fast and very powerful. Daichi just barely managed to dodge it, leaping up in the air.
"Fuuma shuriken!" the boy cried, throwing an oversized windmill-shaped knife at the girl. Futaba reached out to catch it, but a frantic bark from Gonta warned her of the danger in time. She leapt out of the way, herself, dodging both the first blade and the second one hiding in its wake.
"Gonta!" she cried, pulling out some kunai. Throwing the dagger-like shuriken at Daichi, she forced him to dodge himself. The last thing she threw, however, was not a blade but a pill -- a soldier pill, which Gonta swallowed moments before blindsiding the young boy with the dog's own Tsuuga. A loud popping sound was heard.
"I call the match! Medic!" the referee called, gesturing her daughter over right away. "If this were a real tournament, I might let it continue, but for this exhibition I'm not letting anyone fight on a broken leg."
"We broke your leg?" Futaba echoed to Daichi, sounding very embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Daichi-kun. Gonta and I don't know our own strength, sometimes! He was only supposed to tackle you, not break your leg."
Daichi shrugged her off, wincing. "It's all right. I didn't think I could win, anyway -- I'm still working on mastering my family technique, and I know I won't be as good as you or Hanabi-chan until I do. I'll probably still be stuck as a genin, building up my chakra reserves, when the two of you are both jounin."
"I'll teach you some fast chakra generating techniques, if you want, Daichi-san," Sakura said, applying some healing techniques to the boys leg.
"Thanks, ma'am," the boy replied politely, not sure who she was but knowing she outranked him. "I'd appreciate that."
"Come to my genin class next week," she said. "I'll help you out, after class."
"Um, do I have to be there at the start of your class?" he asked. "I've got a part-time job delivering the evening newspaper, and I might not be able to make it in time."
Sakura nodded, although she wasn't too happy about it. She was going to be teaching her class a chuunin-level chakra generating technique next session, and she wasn't thrilled about having to go over it twice. Still, she didn't want to pull the guy out of work just for her own convenience sake. "As long as you're there before class is over. I won't wait if you're not there."
"When can I get my tattoos, huh? Huh, Hana-nii-chan? Huh?"
"Calm down," Hana huffed. "Remember, you have to call me Hana-sensei when we're on business, Futaba-chan. I'll personally give you your tattoo over the weekend, assuming we aren't called away on a mission or something. Got it?"
"Next match," Sakura's mother called over the ruckus as Sakura helped Daichi off the field. "Naruto versus Hanabi."
Naruto and Hanabi stood, facing off against each other. Hanabi's back was ramrod straight, her knee bent and her feet at fourty-five degree angles. Her arms were up in a guard position, but she didn't seem ready for attack.
"I saw your fight with Neji-san."
Naruto raised an eyebrow. "Your sister calls him 'ni-san.' Even after he half-killed her. Why don't you do the same?"
The girl looked absolutely disgusted. "A Branch family member? I know she is weak, but that is revolting. Naruto-san, Neji-san may be stronger then I am... but I will beat you. Without your 'kage bushin,' you have no chance against a Hyuuga."
"Funny," Naruto smirked. "Neji thought that I didn't have a chance, even with my techniques... and that was before he even knew anything about how I fought. You complain because Hinata seems 'weak' for calling your cousin 'ni-san,' eh? It seems to me that Hinata-san is the only one of your entire blessed clan who knows anything about being nice without having to have that niceness beaten out of them. I guess I have to start on you, now."
Hanabi huffed. "The Hyuuga clan is the strongest, most powerful clan in all of Konoha! We have traditions which date back to before the founding of Konoha, we have techniques the likes of which you could never understand, we have more power then-- oof!"
"You talk too much," Naruto pointed out, pulling his fist from her gut, where she'd been doubled over. "Neji did, too. He got me good and angry, so I wouldn't give up. He had a real problem, though, which could explain why he was so ticked off at the world. What do you have? Arrogance?" He followed that with a chop to the back of the girl's head, knocking her out.
In the audience, there were several gasps -- mostly from those born in Konoha, knowing the Hyuuga as the most powerful clan around. Hanabi was rumored to potentially be the equal of Neji, the strongest Hyuuga ever born to the branch family... but Naruto, in less then a second, had knocked her out with nothing more than two quick, nameless taijutsu moves. Furthermore, the contempt he showed for the oldest and greatest clan in all of Konoha was... astonishing. On certain faces, though, there was something in addition to the astonishment. On Sakura's, there was pride and -- just maybe -- a little bit of love. On Anko's were the same, although a different kind of pride and a different sort of love. On the face of Kakashi, nothing was ever displayed... although perhaps a little smirk would have been visible if he wasn't wearing his mask. On Jiraiya... well, Jiraiya was bored. This was everyday stuff, for him.
The older of the two Haruno women was in the 'too astonished to let any other emotions show' category -- she had never seen Naruto fight, after all, so something like this startled her. Still, she had a job to do. "Er... winner, Naruto-san. Sakura-chan?"
Sakura blinked. "Oh, right!" She leapt into action, sending a cute smile Naruto's way as she passed him to attend the fallen genin. She also shot a reassuring look to Inuzuka Futaba, hoping to help the girl know that Naruto was not going to treat her the same way -- provided she didn't make him too mad, that was.
Futaba wasn't exactly comforted. "Hana-ni-- I mean, Hana-sensei," she said, voice trembling. "I... I don't think I can fight against that."
Hana hesitated. She did, in fact, know who Naruto was containing -- she was only a child when the kyuubi attacked, but she was old enough to remember. She also knew who Naruto was -- she had seen all the files, and talked with Kiba about him before the left. She also knew that he was a favorite of the hokage, a student of Jiraiya the (admittedly perverted, but still brilliant) legendary sannin, and apparently one of the heroes of the very country they had established Blossom in. From all that, she figured he wasn't as bad as his reputation made him out to be.
"He's a good fighter," Hana said finally. "Kiba respects him, and you know how little respect my little brother shows for anyone."
"But... that's my point," Futaba replied, trembling. "He'll tear me apart -- Hanabi-chan is so much stronger then I am, and he beat her in seconds!"
Hana hesitated. "Remember, he's holding this tournament for his class," she pointed out. "He's not going to beat all of us so fast that they don't learn anything from it, now is he?"
"I... I guess not."
"And who knows, Futaba-chan," Hana said, smiling. "You might surprise him."
* * * * *
On the other side of the room, Sakura had dragged Naruto away, carrying Hanabi with her. "Dammit, Naruto -- you really impressed everyone with your fight, but did you have to hurt her so much? You cracked this girl's ribs. I mended them with my ninjitsu, but she'll have to stay out of action for at least a week for them to fully heal."
Naruto rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry, Sakura-chan. I was just... she got to me, sorry. She needed to be taught a lesson, but maybe I took it a bit too far."
Sakura sighed. "Well, Jiraiya does always say that your biggest weakness is your temper. Don't let it get out of hand with this next girl, okay? Try to play nice with her."
He squinted in thought, nodding his head as he came to a decision. "Sakura-chan... what if I tried to lose the next fight?"
"Huh?" Sakura asked.
"I told you that Kiba wants me to help his sister out with her confidence," Naruto explained. "How would it be helping her confidence for a chuunin who is forbidden from using any advanced jutsu to beat her? I'm going to have to throw one of these two fights, or else I'll be breaking my promise to Kiba."
Sakura blinked. "Naruto, she's a jounin. She'll know if you throw the fight. Think of what that'll do to her -- knowing that you wouldn't fight her because you were too afraid of embarrassing her. Besides, aren't you doing this just to prove something to your class? Something like, even if all you've got are the basics, you, too, can be as good as a jounin? Do you really think this class will get that if you're out of the fight before you can face off against a jounin?"
Naruto's face fell. "You're right. I... I don't know what to do -- I can't win or I break my promise, and I can't lose or I'll ruin my class."
Sakura's lips twitched. "Well, then... if you can't win, and you can't lose, there's only one alternative."
* * * * *
"The medical treatment is done," Haruno-san announced. "So the break is over. Next match -- Uzumaki Naruto versus Inuzuka Futaba. Ready?"
Futaba was visibly trembling as she looked across at Naruto. "Please don't kill me," she whimpered.
Naruto looked at her, confused. "Kill you? Huh?"
""I... I... Hanabi-chan is so much stronger then I am. If you did to me what you did to her, then... I don't think I could live!" Futaba wept.
Naruto twitched. "Um, are you just acting, or do you really think I'm going to try and kill you?"
The Inuzuka girl stopped, then smiled. "I suppose I was overacting a bit, wasn't I?"
"It was pretty easy to tell," Naruto pointed out.
"I suppose," Futaba admitted. "I really am worried about getting hurt, though...."
Naruto grinned. "Sakura-chan'll patch you up if I do, but I'll try not to. You don't seem to be trying your best to say everything that might get me mad, like the Hyuuga girl just did. So let's just fight -- let me see how ready you are for the chuunin exam."
Futaba blinked. "I... I'm a rookie."
"So? I was a rookie at the chuunin exam, too."
She gaped at him. "But your class was special -- there's never been nine rookies who all took the exam at the same time before or since. Rookies almost never make it into the exam!"
Naruto shrugged. "So? Don't give up on it. Never give up, or else you'll lose before you get started. Now, are you ready to spar?"
Futaba blinked. "Um... spar? I guess this is kind of sparring, isn't it? Yeah, sure, I'm willing to spar."
"Glad to hear it," Sakura's mother snorted. "You two sure like to talk a lot before starting a match, don't you? Anyway, since you're both ready, you can start whenever you want."
They both stood, looking at each other in the eyes, trying to determine when the other would attack. Naruto, seemingly getting impatient, gave her a quick wink, and then charged in. Futaba dodged back, throwing kunai to cover her retreat. Those kunai, however, passed completely through Naruto, landing somewhere behind him. A bushin! she realized, before she felt a quick elbow tag her in the back. It wasn't painfully hard, but it was powerful enough to knock her onto all fours -- a position she was used to fighting from when using a beast mimicry technique, but not one she was ready for. She heard a technique being called behind him.
"Secret move! Konohagakura furui taijutsu suukoujutsu: Itami no sennen!"
Jaws dropped around the amphitheatre as Naruto administered the thousand years of pain technique... using a wooden dagger, but still targetted right in the middle of Futaba's rear end.
"Pervert!" she screamed, leaping upwards. Naruto looked completely bewildered as she spun around, delivering a powerful roundhouse at his head. He just barely dodged, but he was obviously confused.
"But... it's always worked before!" Naruto replied, startled.
"Naruto! That technique doesn't work right on girls!" Kakashi cried from the stands.
Naruto spun around. "Now you tell me! Geez, next time, let me know if a technique you teach me has a weakness like that!"
Futaba was blinking as his attention was diverted elsewhere. "That was... a real technique?"
Naruto turned to glare at her. "Hell, yeah! Attach an explosive tag to a dagger, use that technique, and you can do a lot of damage!"
Sakura, looking faintly embarrassed, reluctantly came to her boyfriends defense. "He used it quite effectively in his battle with Gaara of the Sand, back during the Sand-Sound War, according to witnesses."
That shut up a lot of the murmuring crowd and restrained laughter. Any move which was effective against the legend that was Gaara -- despite his defeat at the hands of the Akatsuki -- should not be ridiculed... however silly or perverted it seemed.
Futaba was a little less homocidal, but still angry. "I don't care about that. Before, this was a friendly spar. Now, though... I want revenge. Tsuuga!"
The drill-like rotation which she employed came flying at Naruto at high speed. Had he still been as slow as he had when he faced Kiba, he would probably have been in serious trouble... but, since he'd worked on improving his speed over the course of two and a half years, he was just able to dodge the attack... although he lost a sleeve on his shirt. He quickly realized that, instead of causing the same slightly disabling nerve pinch which the painful 'enema,' as Pakkun had called it, normally caused, he'd just gotten the dog girl angry. He knew he didn't have any more time to play, he just had to put her down. Thankfully, she had yet to bring Gonta into the fight... and, apparently, she was now too angry to do so. He'd just have to stop her before she calmed down enough to remember her dog.
Out of site, he made a few quick seals. At her next pass, Futaba seemed to hit him... but instead, found herself hitting a wooden desk. "A kawarimi!" several people gasped.
She started looking around, desperate to find where he had gone to... which proved to be her undoing, as it turned out that it wasn't a substitution at all, but a henge. With a pop, the 'desk' turned into a slightly bruised Naruto, who quickly snapped out with a fist to her jaw. He moved much too fast for her to react, and the blow sent her flying. By the time she landed, she was already unconscious.
"Winner, Naruto," Haruno finally said, once she was sure of her conclusion.
* * * * *
"Naruto-kun," Sakura said sweetly, her healing hands working on Naruto's bruised ribs. The blow he had been willing to take in order to complete his final attack would have crippled many people, but not him. He had managed to prepare for the blow -- for the most part -- and his skin, after years of training, had hardened up to the point that he could take powerful blows without serious wounds. He still had suffered a lot of damage, but between his own healing abilities and Sakura's skills, he would be fine for the next battle in no time.
"Yes, Sakura-chan?"
"A word of warning," she said. "You might want to add that thousand years of pain technique to your list of kinjutsu... because if I ever catch you using it on a girl, again -- I don't care what her age -- I'm going to kill you. The only reason I'm healing you right now is that the girl's not really old enough for you, yet -- if it had been Hana you tried that on... well, let's just say medical ninjitsu can do things other than heal. You might not even be entirely a man, right now."
"Entirely a... um, Sakura-chan? Make that, Sakura-sama? Please... I'm sorry? I really didn't know it was like that for girls!" he protested. "I didn't even think about it, so--"
"Never mind, Naruto -- I know that," Sakura sighed, wondering just when she had become so forgiving of him. Even a week ago, she'd probably have dumped him for trying such a technique, despite his own ignorance. "But now you know what to look forward to if you ever try that technique... okay?"
"Uh, right, Sakura-chan. The thousand years of pain is now a kinjutsu... got it."
* * * * *
"I still can't believe he did that!" Futaba growled. She wasn't getting any sympathy from Gonta -- who seemed more amused then anything else -- but her cousin was another story.
"Niether can I," Hana agreed, her voice rumbling with anger.
An embarrassed cough from behind them attracted their attention. There, Kakashi stood, a rather ticked off looking Anko standing beside him. "Um... I'm afraid it's partly my fault," their jounin-oyabun said.
All three girls glared at him. "How so?" Hana asked.
"During Naruto's bell test, I performed that technique on him," Kakashi explained. "It is, um, quite effective against males. There is a nerve that can be pinched in males only by the application of that technique... but, um, the biology of females locates that particular nerve... too deep to be reached. I never really taught him the technique, but just having it used on you will teach you how it is performed. Just not its strengths and weaknesses."
"And just how did you learn of this?" Hana demanded, refusing to relent.
"Because the Fourth, who developed the damn technique, tried using it on me, once!" Anko snarled. "And I made him promise not to ever use that technique on a woman, ever again. I thought I had convinced him to make it a kinjutsu, not to be taught to anyone, but apparently I was mistaken."
Futaba had an odd look on her face. "It works on males, though, huh?"
"Don't even think about it, Futaba-chan," Hana woofed in a dog-like admonishment.
"Think about what, Hana-ni-chan?" Futaba chirped innocently.
* * * * *
For the first time ever, Sakura's mother was having a few doubts about Naruto's suitability as a paramour for her daughter. Not many -- Sakura's own explanation about his use of that particular technique in battle with Gaara convinced her that he hadn't used it just because he was a pervert -- but she was starting to wonder if his hanging around with the celebrated erotic novelist and admitted pervert, Jiraiya, and the man known to read those novels in public, Kakashi, had perhaps warped him in ways that she would not approve. She made a mental note to 'talk' with the two men about their influence on the boy.
"Well... time for the final match. Inuzuka Hana, are you ready?"
The older of the two dog-wielding ninjas grinned sharply, showing a couple fangs. "I accept that Naruto's insult of my cousin was unintentional, but I am more than ready to avenge her loss, anyway."
"Uzumaki Naruto, are you ready?"
Sakura was still checking him out when she asked. After a moment of checking out his bruise, she nodded to him. He turned around and smiled. "Sure, sure. Sakura-chan says I'm fine, so I'll be able to go at one hundred percent."
"Then begin," Haruno-san announced.
Hana grinned darkly at the youngster facing her. "You know, Naruto, I'm aware you've faced a couple of my clan members. I bet you think you've seen what our family can do."
"I have an inkling," Naruto agreed. "I imagine that a jounin like you might have another trick or two up your sleeve, but I think I've got a handle on your family style. Each of you is a bit different, though -- Kiba's more agressive, Futaba's less likely to involve her dog, you... well, I don't know about you, yet, do I?"
"I tend to involve my dogs more then Futaba does," Hana admitted. "Possibly even more then Kiba does, although he's kind of obsessed with Akamaru even more then most of our clan is with our puppies. The thing is, though, that both Gonta and Akamaru have been... undertrained, really, for true combat. In order for them to fight, they really need those soldier pills to get the necessary strength and power to be truly effective. My dogs, however," she gestured, allowing her three dogs to take positions around the boy, "Don't need any 'help' in order to fight."
"And you have three of them, whereas Kiba and Futaba only have one," Naruto noted.
"Oh... I have more than three." She bit her thumb, making seals faster then anyone could track, then declared, "Kuchiyose no jutsu!" The summoning technique did not react as Naruto knew it, pulling out only one ninja animal from wherever they waited to be summoned into the world. Instead, it summoned a whole pack -- five very large wolf-like dogs and one... well, gigantic dog, the size of a horse, upon which Hana rode. "Training only, boys, so don't kill him!" she called to her dogs. "But hard training, so don't be afraid to hurt him, either. Gatsuuga!"
With eight large dogs attacking him at once, all so fast that they almost couldn't be seen, Naruto was hard pressed to dodge. He was only thankful that Hana and her mount weren't attacking, as well, or else he'd be completely unable to continue, already. He didn't want to lose, so he had to do something, but he was unsure of exactly what he could do. Each single dog was ten times worse then anything he'd ever seen Kiba and Akamaru manage, together, and that was without a single soldier pill -- his speed at forming seals was now fast enough he could perform them before any of these dogs could hit him, but he was restricted to using techniques which weren't exactly suited for combatting animals with such keen senses of smell. He longed for just a simple kage bushin, but he had to make do.
Maybe I've got a tool or something that will help, he thought, mentally going through a checklist of his equipment. What all have I got? A few dummy kunai -- I really should have switched to the real kunai once I quit playing with the genin, shouldn't I have? Some blank scrolls -- which are, of course, utterly useless. A few lengths of twine -- which I should have replaced with wire before entering into combat with a jounin. Assorted dummy shuriken -- sheesh, why didn't I think about the fact this puppy lady was a jounin and not a genin? A few soldier pills -- which I was planning to save for Hana's team after the duels... and which wouldn't exactly be helpful here, anyway, since I'm not even low on chakra. Some soap, which I'm going to use in the showers afterwards -- don't want to track mud into my apartment, after all. Wait a minute... hmm. But where would I get the water?
He continued dodging frantically, glancing around the room for some source of liquid. He was just about to give up when he saw it -- the bottle of sake, all but it's neck hidden, sticking out of Jiraiya's pack where he sat in the stands. The old pervert, himself, was asleep -- which annoyed his student quite significantly. Still, the opportunity was there, and the target was perfect. Time to make his move.
Pushing as much chakra into his legs as he could, he jumped out of the center of the gatsuuga and ran for his master. "Ero-sennin!" he called.
Jiraiya blinked awake. "Huh? Ack!" With the reflexes developed over the course of some fifty years of ninja training, the old pervert managed to stumble over the bench in front of him, rolling down the amphitheatre steps to land face-first on the stage floor. Not exactly unharmed, but out of the way.
"Thanks for the sake!" Naruto cried, pulling the bottle out of the older ninja's bag as he passed.
"That's expensive stuff!" Jiraiya cried. "And you aren't allowed to drink it."
Naruto rebounded off the wall at the top of the steps, backflipping to land in the center of the stage again. "Not going to drink it," he answered, popping the bottle open with a savage bite of his teeth. "And you can just deduct the cost of this bottle from the thousands of ryou you've stolen from me over the years."
He pulled the soap out of his equipment pack. It was a gel soap designed for travel, and needed diluting in order to be useful for anything. Naruto started pouring it into the sake.
"What are you doing! That's good sake you're ruining!"
"Shut up, old man," Naruto snapped, trying to keep from spilling anything as he poured the soap and dodged the attacking dogs at the same time. He was burning lots of chakra to keep it up, but that was okay -- he had a near infinite amount to spare, anyway. He emptied the bottle of soap and tossed it away. He capped the sake with his thumb and shook it, mixing the soap in quite effectively considering the speed at which he was moving.
"No! My good sake!" Jiraiya wept.
"I said... shut up, old man!" Naruto cried. Spinning on his right ankle, she started spraying the soapy alcohol all around him, coating the floor in the now slick substance.
The gatsuuga made the dogs look like they were flying, but they weren't. In fact, they had to take a step every few seconds to keep their spin up, so it was rather like they were jumping and rotating at the same time. That was why, as each dog started to pass over the slick surface, they started slipping out of control. In rapid succession, all eight dogs went crashing into the walls, each emitting its own yelp of disbelief as it lost its balance. Five of the dogs disappeared into puffs of smoke, and the other three looked too stunned to do much.
Hana looked quite startled. Deciding that she had to do something else, she started to call out her next technique. "Juujin bu-"
"Stop!" Naruto cried, holding his hand up, before she could complete the man-beast mimicry techniques. "Puppy girl, I think we should call this one a draw."
Hana's left eye twitched. "Puppy girl?"
"Okay, puppy lady, then. I guess your cousin would be puppy girl," Naruto corrected cheekily.
"Hey!" Futaba protested from the side.
"Anyway," Naruto continued, ignoring the younger Inuzuka girl. "I think this one is a draw. I can't attack you from here, and you can't attack me from there... unless you've got some sort of secret ranged technique better than, say, the kage shuriken no jutsu using a fuuma shuriken, which is the best I can manage from here with my current restrictions. You can't close in, unless you want to try besting me in taijutsu while trying to walk on my soapy floor, which you know would give me a pretty good advantage. Give us enough time, and try hard enough, and one of us can win -- I could always outwait you, since I've got more stamina then you do... and you aren't the only one to have some soldier pills. You could always try waiting until I run out of soap for the floor. But this is just a demonstration for some students, not a real battle. It isn't worth it, is it?"
Hana paused, considering his words. The battle would be far from over in a real situation, as she was fairly certain the both of them had rather impressive techniques to use, still. However, she didn't think there was much reason behind continuing -- this was just a demonstration for some Academy students, after all. Still, she wanted to win, just to avenge her sister... and maybe there was a way. "You're right -- my beast mimicry doesn't give me anything in this scenario. I've got a technique which might work, though... if it doesn't, I suppose I'll agree to a draw if you want. Okay?"
Naruto grinned dangerously. "Give it your best shot."
"I will," she snorted, then pulled out a kunai. She crossed to the edge of the slick floor Naruto had created, and even took a couple steps into it. Naruto started to fall into a defensive stance, wondering if she was planning on the taijutsu challenge, after all. She came to a complete stop well out of hand-to-hand range, though. Much to everyone's surprise, she cut her own palm, and then flicked some blood over onto Naruto.
"Ack! Hey, what--"
She pulled out a scroll and waved it around, making a few seals as she did. "Ninpo Kuchiyose -- Doton Tsuiganu Jutsu!"
Naruto had heard that technique before, although only once. He knew how it worked, however, and knew he was in trouble. "Uh oh...." He concentrated as much chakra into his legs as he could and leapt up into the air. As he left the ground, a dozen dogs broke through the earth and tried to bite him. He flipped, remolding the chakra as he went, and landed on the cieling. The dogs from the summoning couldn't catch him, but Hana's large mount -- which she was no longer riding -- attacked him with a tsuuga. He dodged, though just barely, and recieved a claw scratch on his back as he went. The wound would normally not be so serious as to hamper his fighting ability, but because he was upside down the blood itself was presenting a problem, trickling down onto his head, into his ears, and so forth. He needed to get to the ground, but the dogs were following him, waiting to attack the moment he got close enough. The big dog was still attacking, and Hana was wiping off her sandals preparing to join it. If his techniques were unrestricted, he'd easily be able to get out of the situation, but he wasn't sure how to get out of it without moves he wasn't allowed to use. He needed to figure out a way to delay the inevitable long enough to come up with something else. He watched a drop of his blood fall to the floor... and had an idea.
Suddenly, four different Narutos leapt down from the roof in four different directions. The dogs all looked confused at first -- their noses couldn't tell which one was which, since his smell of blood was so strong with all four of them. Then, they figured it out, and started running... but it was too late. He'd already uncorked the soapy sake and put down a fresh layer of slick surface, and once again the dogs went skidding.
Hana, with a weak gesture, dispelled all the dogs -- including the big one still on the roof -- and sighed. "You still want a draw?"
Naruto grinned. "Draw... but only because I think it would take way too long for us to resolve this in any other way."
"Tie. No-one wins," Haruno announced.
Naruto turned to his class. "I'll warn you right now -- I cheated. There's no way I could have done all that with just those three techniques... not as a genin just graduated from the Academy, anyway. I've got more chakra then just about anyone else alive, right now, and I was using it extensively. I had to delve into the basics of what Sakura is going to be teaching you -- control and molding. I used chakra to cling to the cieling, chakra to make myself faster and stronger, and chakra to guide that last technique -- three bushins, each with a wooden dagger drenched in my own blood to confuse the dogs' noses. I also have a special ability -- a developing bloodline trait for rapid healing, so I'm not bleeding much any more. That kept me from losing so much blood that I got dizzy during the end of the fight. The puppy lady really pushed me, there, and to be honest... even if I had access to all of my techniques, I'd have a hard time beating her. However... the demonstration was more to show you that yes, these techniques are effective... and I think that was proved. Does anyone still believe that these basic techniques are 'useless,' any more?" When no-one raised their hand, he nodded. "Good. Class dismissed. Next time, we'll go back to learning the henge."
The class slowly migrated out, but a few people stayed behind. Sakura did, of course, and immediately ran over to treat the wound on his back -- he wasn't exactly lying when he said it wasn't bleeding 'much,' compared to how bad he had been, but it was still serious enough a wound to worry her. Kakashi stayed, as well, and quickly went over to Naruto to explain, better, the strengths and weaknesses of the Thousand Years of Pain -- if he'd even known that Naruto had adopted the technique, he'd have talked with him about it long ago... but, as he hadn't even realized Naruto learned the technique, he wasn't aware he had needed to explain anything.
Two of the others who remained were the Inuzuka pair. Hana was staring over at Naruto, a haunted expression on her face, and Futaba was watching her.
"Hana-ni-chan, what's wrong?" she asked.
"I'm out of chakra," Hana replied. "Well, not quite, but I don't have enough left to fight with. I was bluffing -- he'd won."
Futaba blinked. "Wow. He's good."
Hana sighed. "Yes, but... I have to wonder. Naruto's only a chuunin, and there's no way I can beat him. He wasn't even allowed to use any ninja techniques outside of the basic three that all Konoha nin know -- well, except for the Aburame who have no chakra and Hanabi-chan, who didn't deem it necessarily to learn anything but the bushin since she felt her own family techniques were so superior. Which makes me wonder... do I even deserve this promotion to jounin?"
"Hell yes, you do," came a voice behind her. The two girls spun around to find Jiraiya standing a respectful distance away, a serious look on his face. "You pushed him. That's impressive."
"But he's a chuunin!" Hana spat, frustrated with herself.
"He's my apprentice, and he has an infinite supply of chakra. The only reason he's still a chuunin is because you can't skip a rank, and his only opportunity to be promoted from genin until right before we left on this mission was... interrupted by the Sand-Sound war." Jiraiya laughed nervously. "And, um, I trained him to be better then me."
Futaba was suitably awed, but Hana was horrified. "Are you sure you can trust him with that much power?"
Jiraiya's humor slipped a notch. "Damned straight, I do -- you just need to get to know him to understand why." He glanced at Futaba. "But we should not discuss this in present company."
Hana nodded. "Perhaps not. And perhaps I shouldn't be so critical of him -- Kiba likes him, after all, and while I don't particularly think much of my brother's intelligence, I do believe he wouldn't be so loyal to someone who doesn't deserve it. Still... I was promoted to jounin by an administrative test. I have to wonder... do I deserve this rank as a combat specialist?"
Jiraiya smirked. "Well, I could always train you, if you want."
Hana gave him a dark look. "I wouldn't trust you as my master."
"Come on -- I only go peeping like that for research. I always need new material for my books," Jiraiya protested.
"How about you suggest another master?" she asked, ignoring his reply. "Because I think that's a good idea, but not with you."
"Master? Nope, no other good masters in this village who'd be able to help you," Jiraiya explained. "But... if he can work it into his schedule, Naruto might be a good person to train with. He knows a lot of techniques he could teach you, but needs a good sparring partner to work on them with... and it would let you get to know him better."
Hana considered that. She still wasn't sure she trusted the boy, but... Kiba did. And he obviously was good -- better then Hana thought possible for a chuunin. Perhaps... perhaps she should actually do it -- it wasn't like she had very many other options for sparring partners in town. "You know... that might not be a bad idea."
* * * * *
Notes: So I didn't make it in one day, but three. I got sick (still am, slightly), and so couldn't work quite as much on the fic as usual for a couple days (plus I had other things occupying my time in real life, as well). I hope that the fact it's almost double-length makes up for that. The next chapter is a bit of a surprise, so I won't spoil it too much. I'll just say that Shikamaru and Naruto start their chess match... (and it will be standard chess, since I don't understand the rules of shogi enough to make a convincing strategy for it. Purists will have to convert the strategies mentioned into similar shogi strategies on their own) That is only a small part of what happens, however. (Next chapter may be double-length as well, so don't be surprised if it takes more than a day, too)