Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 24 ( Chapter 34 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: The Hyuuga civil war is going to drag on for a while. As a point, it (and the events leading up to it, including the romance of Kiba and Hinata... such as it is. At this point in the side story, Hinata isn't even in love with Kiba. These spoilers for the side story are brought out only because I'm finding it increasingly unlikely that I'll get around to writing it, at least not anytime soon) IS the unwritten side story I've had roughly planned for some time, and have hinted at since I mentioned Ino and Sakura leaving their apartment to Hinata for caretaking, and which I may or may not ever get to. Snippets of news from it will show up in various chapters between now and the end of Volume 3, but don't expect much to develop on camera in this fic. It will return to a mainline story issue in Volume 4, however, so don't think I'm done with it by any stretch of the imagination... and it may influence certain events in upcoming chapters of Volume 3, as well, but not to the extent that some of you seem to be speculating. I say this because I don't want an infinite number of comments saying, "Hey, what about the Hyuuga civil war?" during this and the next several chapters, as that conflict is barely touched upon. I'd be willing to release the side story plotline for someone else to write, by the way, if I trusted the person to do it right... but, um, that's the problem. There aren't many authors who I know well enough to trust that they'd do it right, and fewer still of those are into Naruto. If anyone wants a crack at it, which would be about the only way that you could guarantee that it would get written, send me a PRIVATE e-mail (get the address from my author's page if you don't know it already) and a link to anything else you've written -- I'll have to make a judgement call based upon how you right. You could be a great writer and I'd still turn you down, mind -- I'd be looking for a specific style in addition to reasonable quality. A lot of people seem surprised with how fast Hanabi's transition has been. Well, think of it this way -- she's a ten year old child who has gone through her entire life being told, and believing, that her and her family are the most powerful force on earth. Suddenly, her family is shattered into open conflict -- her mother, who she has always listened to and believed in, is telling her one thing. Her father, who raised her, trained her, and who she trusts, is telling her another. Finally, there's her sister... who has always been a bit of a disappointment to her (because she was a disappointment to her entire family) but who she still respected (as demonstrated by her surprise that Neji is stronger then Hinata during the chuunin exam), who is apparently the source of the conflict. The Hyuuga clan has always come first for her, but suddenly the Hyuuga clan is facing the Hyuuga clan... and she's a ten year old trying to understand all that. It's gotten her questioning some things, and open for intervention by others (like, say, Inari or Naruto) who are suddenly making a lot of sense. She's not quite 'redeemed,' yet, but the source of her arrogance and the things which made her so aggressive when dealing with Naruto (and Neji, not that it matters) are no longer a stable ground for her to stand on, so she's going to be going through a bit of a reformation in her attitude. Some of it will be occuring 'off camera,' but not necessarily all of it. I do not live in the Ithaca area any more -- I moved away about twenty years ago. As far as the 'breeding wolves' goes -- who says that people were doing it legally? And no, I'm not saying ALL half-wolf half-dog breeds go crazy, I'm just saying the tendency is there. (And 'eyes going red' isn't exactly literal -- I just don't know how to describe it any better then that) That said, I don't want to get into an argument with a veterinary assistant. Okay, I get it, "Snake, Snail, Toad" is a varient of "rock, paper, scissors." So what? There IS a legend that it's based upon (or maybe based upon it), dealing with people named Orochimaru the Snake Master, Jiraiya the Toad Master, and Tsunade the Slug Master. Kishimoto himself mentioned this legend (and NOT the game -- he was specifically talking of the legend, in this case) when asked about what elements of Japanese myth and legend he was incorporating into his manga. I don't know much about this legend, but I DO know that there is this 'snake, snail, toad' game similar to rock, paper, scissors that came from it. I don't need to be told that 'Snake, Snail, Toad' comes from the game, again, because it does and it doesn't -- the game and the legend are intertwined, but it's the legend that's important in this case, as Jiraiya is the Jiraiya of that legend, Orochimaru is the Orochimaru of that legend, etc. (Which came first, the legend or the game, is another question; but it doesn't matter in this case. What does matter is that the game is unimportant to my point -- it was the legend that was important. The game was mentioned as connected to the legend, yes, but the legend was really what I don't know the specifics of -- which was what I was trying to answer, not the whole 'Oh, there's a game this legend is based on!' thing) Have I made Naruto overpowered? Possibly. He IS supposed to be just about the strongest ninja in history, at this point, or at least close to it... that may make him seem a bit too strong, but remember how hard it's been for him to get this far... and remember he is still largely untested against other super-powered ninja. Naruto can sense, already, that Sasuke is too strong for him AND Sakura to try and take on unprepared (as shown earlier in this fic), and Orochimaru has probably gained considerably in power when you take into account he now has a sharingan eye just like Kakashi does, only this is a mangekyou sharingan eye. Also, remember Itachi is still out there -- the same Itachi who destroyed the entire elite Uchiha clan on his own -- and Naruto isn't sure he's any stronger then him. Naruto is definitely an 'elite' ninja, by this point, but he isn't alone in being the 'absurdly powerful' class of ninja, either. He has some competition, at any rate.... (Whether he will by the point this fic is over is another matter -- remember, by the end of this fic, things should be resolved to the point that I can write a next generation sequel). As far as his intelligence goes (and his victory in the chess match), I -- personally -- feel that Naruto's tactical mind and intelligence are severely underrated both by the other characters in the series AND by many fans. I also think that Shikamaru's severely OVERrated by the same group. Naruto thinks ahead just as much as Shikamaru (for proof, watch the Kiba match, or even the battle with Zabuza, and pay attention to his strategic mind, and COUNT how far ahead he would have had to think in order to get himself into the position to do some of the things he does. Even in the fight with Neji, he outwits the 'strongest ever genin' TWICE... and people in Konoha still evaluate him as an idiot. Sigh.). People often criticize him for just 'jumping in' first thing, but I think he explains pretty well why: He needs to fight them to get a true assessment of his opponents fighting abilities, so he closes in and attacks (often with one or more shadow clones), and he continues planning while he fights, thinking on his feet. I think Shikamaru is overconfident in his ability to assess people tactically (he admits he underestimates Naruto at least twice), lacks the ability to think on his feet (he has to pause in the middle of a fight to think -- and the only way he got away with it was that his enemies were so confused about what he was doing), and -- well -- he's lazy. If he thinks he's going to win with minimal effort, he'll probably only put in a minimal effort... so, he'd lose to Naruto, who he has a habit of underestimating (and who is universally underestimated tactically, even by people who should know better), the first time he played... because he'd only put a minimal effort into it, and would be susceptible to overlooking Naruto actually having ANY strategy in mind. I actually like Shikamaru, but I find all the "Shikamaru's a genius, Naruto's an idiot" to be rather annoying... and just wanted to put it into perspective. I actually think he and Naruto are about equal... but I'd put Naruto as a front-line commander, and keep Shikamaru far enough in the rear that he'd have the time he needs to think. I thought I was clear about it, but I'll confirm it just in case: Yes, Moegi is, in fact, a child of the Akamichi clan. There was no point, really, in mentioning that during her appearance a couple chapters ago -- the relevance of her placement there (which isn't all that significant, really, but it does give me a technique base to give her when I need it) will come out later. I was mostly setting up the argument by including her, that chapter. (that, and she was the most logical person to add to Hana's team in place of Daichi -- her, Ino, or Matsuri were the three people who could do it. They only needed a genin, so Ino was overkill, and Matsuri's team needed Matsuri more then Moegi's team needed Moegi) To the person who ordered me to "do a time skip its getting kinda lame," um, (a) why do you think it's getting lame and (b) how will a timeskip help? A time skip now would only screw up the chronology, not change the story -- these things have to happen, after all. I mean, really, what is with people wanting a 'time skip' all of a sudden, as if that would really change anything? What, exactly, do you expect from this time skip? Please, enlighten me.... The subplot involving Gaara is probably scrapped. If I were going to include either the dead Gaara or the live Gaara tracks, I would need to start setting it up within the next few chapters. Sadly, I fear I may actually finish the fic before his ultimate fate is certified, at the rate I'm going versus the speed the manga is moving. (He's been pronounced dead, yes, but there are hints he may be... restored, somehow. But nothing definite, so... I can't make a final determination). All this means is that you'll be seeing less of Sasuke then I originally intended. I'll leave that open so that I can go back and possibly write a side story dealing with him and Yuugao vs. the Sand, as I initially planned, if I am still able to find the time to write when Gaara's fate it resolved. Sorry, all you Gaara fans out there. With that out of the way, on with the story....
Chapter 24
"So you gave her those bracers as an engagement gift," Anko said, rubbing her forearms nervously. She had worn them, at one time, for a very similar reason. Sadly, her own marriage never happened, so she had given them up to the Office of the Hokage once the Fourth had been installed. She hoped they would be of more use for her son then they were for the Fourth. "I knew the Third gave them to you, but I figured you would have pawned them off to pay for something a long time ago."
"How do you know about those?" Naruto asked, surprised.
"Oh," Anko exclaimed, realizing her slip-up a moment too late. "I, um, had to retrieve them from the archives for you. I wondered why the hokage was giving away such precious artifacts."
"Precious? How were they precious?" Naruto asked. "I mean, I know that they're about the only thing I have from my family, but I didn't think anyone else would think them all that valuable...."
Anko winced, knowing that Naruto knew nothing of his heritage. She owed it to him to explain those things he didn't know, as best as she could. "The Uzumaki -- your clan -- were one of the twelve great clans which founded the village that became Konoha. When the First became hokage, he gave gifts to the chieftain of each of those twelve clans -- for while the people in the town no longer belonged now to many clans, and not just those twelve, they were the owners of the lands around which Konoha was built. Those bracers were the gift from the First to the Uzumaki matriarch, almost a century ago."
Naruto's eyes widened. "The... the Uzumaki were a great clan? But... where are they, today?"
Anko's eyes narrowed. "Except for a very few, they were wiped out in the last inter-clan war the Hyuuga brought to Konoha -- which makes me hope that their new civil war does not spill over here into Blossom. The Uzumaki are now a 'lost clan' on the council... which means you -- or Sakura-chan, once she marries you, if she takes your name -- will have a seat on the council when you retire."
"I'm not retiring," Naruto pointed out. "Not until after I've become the greatest hokage of all time, at least."
Laughter was his answer. "Perhaps not," Anko agreed. "But Sakura-chan could take the spot, if she ever wishes to get out of the kunoichi business... once she's married you, that is."
"Um," Naruto coughed. "She doesn't exactly want it known, publically, that we're getting married. Not right now, at least."
Anko's eyes narrowed. "Is she ashamed of you?"
"No!" he was quick to protest. "Not at all! She just... she doesn't want to get married now -- to me or anyone else, for that matter -- and she's afraid she'll be pressured to make it sooner then she's ready if it's well known."
Anko frowned. "Hm. I'm going to have to talk to that girl. I made a mistake very similar to the one she's making now, one time, and so--"
A puff of smoke announced the arrival of another ninja -- in this case, Aoba, who had been on border guard duty that day. "Naruto-dono," he said, bowing his head formally.
Naruto blinked. He barely knew the jounin, but he seemed competent enough. "Aoba-san?"
"There are a large number of ninja at our border," he explained. "And they wish to hire us to aid them in a mission."
* * * * *
Naruto vaguely recognized the man standing in his office when he, Anko, and Aoba arrived. Sakura was already there, looking at the man uncertainly, as were Jiraiya, Hana, Ebisu, and Ino. Even Hanabi -- looking rather subdued in recent days, as more and more snippets of news came to Blossom (all of which had said essentially that tensions were high but nothing had happened yet in Konoha) with no end to the Hyuuga civil war in sight -- was present in her capacity as his administrative aide. Naruto decided to check the man's forehead protector -- at the very least, he should be able to learn something about the man from that -- and saw that he actually wore two, crisscrossing over his forehead right over his eyebrows. One, on the bottom, appeared to have a relatively unscarred rock nin symbol on it. The other, however, was old, pitted, even a little rusted... and had a symbol Naruto recognized from an old scroll in his possession. It was then he remembered just who the man was.
"You!" he shouted, not remembering the man's name. "I know you! I met you about a year ago, didn't I?"
"Yes," he replied. "Although you were claiming to be a homeless nin of Rainbow, at the time."
"You knew I wasn't, though," Naruto pointed out.
The man tossed him a forehead protector. "Here. From now on, you're an honorary Rainbow. Now, the next time you want to go around pretending to be one of us, you can do so legitimately."
Naruto smiled nervously. "Um, right."
"Now, in case you've forgotten, my name is Toshio Kagai. I am the leader of the remaining Rainbow nin... and we'd like your help."
"Yeah, I gathered that," Naruto said, moving to take his seat behind his desk. "Aoba said you wanted to hire us for some kind of mission?"
"One decade ago," Kagai began, "Rainbow was attacked. Our people were chased out of our lands, our citizens were raped and tortured, and our property was stolen and used against us. Today, we move to take back that land. Uzumaki Naruto, if you aide us in that quest, I will consider your promise to me fulfilled."
Naruto paused, staring back at the man. He looked around, seeing the eyes of all of the higher ranking ninja in Blossom upon him, awaiting his decision -- or possibly, at least an explanation. None of them save Jiraiya knew of his promise -- and even Jiraiya might not have taken him seriously at the time, since they were both undercover. Yet to Naruto, a promise was a promise -- whether made to other people he knew and who knew him, to complete strangers, or even just to himself. He felt himself bound to keep it... although he didn't necessarily have to keep that promise the way the man he made it to said he should.
"What, specifically, do you want us to do?" Naruto asked. "I would be willing to turn Blossom into a haven for homeless nin, as I said, but I don't really have that power -- I'm only the acting leader, here. I could talk it over with Kakashi, and he might be willing to do things my way, but that's the best I can do. And what would my promise have to do with restoring your town of Rainbow?"
"Rainbow will become that haven you said you would create," Kagai explained. "And what I need from you is merely your assistance in preparing for the battle where we recapture our town. The civilian populace there has been terrorized enough, between the battle that lead to our expulsion and the poor treatment they have recieved since our departure. There aren't many left -- maybe a few dozen, at most -- but we want them protected. We want you to evacuate the civilian population so that we can launch this attack without endangering them... but we cannot allow our enemies to know we are coming. Are you willing to do this for us?"
"We can't," Sakura pointed out, stepping up to Naruto's side. "That would qualify as a B-rank mission, at least, and more likely an A rank -- we aren't permitted to participate in missions with higher then c-rank risk involved."
"Not quite true," Naruto sighed, sitting back in his chair and closing his eyes. "We may... but we require permission from Konoha first."
"We're talking fighting a war here," Aoba argued. "There's no way the hokage would authorize that."
"Not a war -- an evacuation," Kagai emphasized. "You might even be able to escape without a single fight."
"Unlikely," Naruto snorted. "Look, I appreciate the whole 'honorary Rainbow' thing, and the chance to fulfill that promise I made to you... but I'm not sure about this. I don't want to lose any of my ninja in a suicide mission -- not if I have a choice in the matter -- and I'm a bit worried that this could turn into one real quick. Write up your paperwork -- I'll go ahead and forward the request to the hokage, but I won't give you a firm 'yes' or 'no' yet."
Kagai smiled. "Thank you, Naruto-dono. As long as you truly consider it, I am willing to give you as much time as you need to make your decision.
"Aoba-san, please escort our guest to the hostels, and help him with all of the paperwork, would you?" Jiraiya said, gesturing towards the door.
Aoba nodded, guiding Kagai out of the room. The remaining ninja turned to Naruto expectantly.
He glanced around at them. "Erm, what?"
A couple snorts and other sounds of disgust answered him before Sakura stepped up and gave him a swat on the back of his head. "Baka!" she snapped in exasperation. "Are we really going to be taking this mission or not?"
"Um, won't the old hag be the one to say that?" Naruto asked, confused.
"Tsunade-sama is likely to take your recommendation, Naruto-dono," Hana explained. "You should have a better feel for how we are progressing here in Blossom then she does."
Naruto frowned. "Well, if she wants my recommendation... um, I dunno. I think the plan sucks as it is now -- infiltrate a town of ninja and pull a few dozen people who we probably can't even get a physical description of without letting anyone else know? Like that's even possible! But maybe there's something else we can do...."
"Like what?" Hanabi asked, shaking her head. "They want to get their civilians to safety, but how in the world can they do that?"
Ebisu stepped forward. "Who is the enemy in this? What ninja force conquered the Rainbow, anyway?"
"The Grass," Jiraiya answered for him.
"The Grass, eh?" Ebisu said, pushing his glasses further up his nose. "Well, if it's the Grass, then maybe there's something the hokage-sama could do to help us out... but it may mean we'll have to actually fight in the war instead, if you think we're up to that."
* * * * *
Kagai stood in front of Naruto once again two days later, although this time only Sakura, Hana, and Hanabi were standing with him. He bowed formally, saying, "Greetings again, Naruto-sama. I understand you now have an answer?"
"I do," he said. "I wish to extend my apologies, and say that we cannot provide the specific help you have asked for. The hokage has rejected your plan. She said it would require more resources then Blossom could provide, and that Konoha is currently too busy with its own internal matters to send the necessary reinforcements."
Kagai closed his eyes. The disappointment was clear on his face, and the struggle to regain his composure lasted for several minutes before it finally settled back into stoic formality. "Well, that was not entirely unexpected. I thank you for the consideration. We will do what we can on our own."
Naruto coughed. "Um, I said that we cannot provide the specific help you asked for. I didn't say there was nothing we could do. We can actually do a considerable amount of work for you, but there are a few conditions...."
Kagai blinked, looking up with cautious hope. "Conditions?"
"Yes," Naruto said. "We have been authorized to fight alongside you for one single battle -- the initial reconquest of Rainbow Village. However, in order to prevent this aide from spilling over against Konoha, she requires that we send this message to the Grass ninja occupying that territory at least fourty-eight hours before the battle begins if you are to use our aid."
That made the former Rainbow ninja's eyes bug out. "Excuse me? You're willing to help us in the battle, but in order to do so we must sacrifice the element of surprise?" he exclaimed, losing his composure slightly.
"I'm sure if you read the statement," Naruto emphasized, "You'll see the reasons we must do this. However, we will provide enough combat support to more then make up for that lack of surprise, and I will be able to keep my promise I am sure."
With a sigh, Kagai turned his attention to the paper in front of him.
"To the Ninja of Grass,
"Greetings. We have been hired by the former ninja of Rainbow to help them recover their lost territory during a single operation on your territory, through our forces located at the satellite village of Blossom. This will place them in direct confrontation with you. We would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the treaties you have signed with us. Namely, the Non-Retribution Treaty, which Grass and other nations signed with Konoha a century ago, during the reign of the First Hokage, in recognition of the mercenary nature of our industry and the troubles that may cause neutral powers, as we are. In this treaty, we agreed not to engage in retribution against the opposing ninja village for losses as a result of missions hired by a third party. As Blossom is, in fact, part of Konoha, this treaty is in effect with them.
"Furthermore, I am certain you are willing of the 'Civilian Protection Accord' which is referred to in the Non-Retribution Treaty. This requires that all effort must be made to protect civilians whenever our operations take us into each other's territories. Under this Accord, we are directing that you evacuate the few dozen civilians still living in the village of Rainbow to a safe location -- with the guaranty of safe passage back to that village at the conclusion of combat, whatever the outcome. We expect you not to jeopardize their lives by the common trick of placing undercover ninja in the civilian populace during their return home, should Rainbow succeed in reconquering thier home village. We also reserve the right to engage in operations to ensure these treaty provisions were properly enforced.
"If you fail to abide by this directive, or if you attempt an attack against either Konoha or Blossom to retaliate for the coming action, then we will find you in default of those two treaties. This will necessitate Konoha declaring war against the Grass, and doing our utmost to destroy you. As a neutral power we have felt comfortable enough with to invite your armed ninja inside our borders for the purpose of participation in the Chuunin Exam, we sincerely hope we can avoid such any such damage to our political relations from this occurance."
The giant seal on the bottom of the document would be easily recognized by any ninja alive: One of the five seals of the kage rank ninja, ensuring that any who saw it knew that this document actually had the rule of law over even the most powerful of the jounin-oyabun for any country allied with or even those hoping to maintain neutral relations with that kage's village. Grass was one of the stronger villages ruled by a jounin-oyabun, but Konoha was long reputed to be the most powerful of the five greater ninja villages (although some claimed the Rock were stronger -- something hard to claim, as the Rock lost the previous war against them, but then Konoha had been supported by allies and the Rock had stood alone). There was no chance that even Grass would refuse such an explicit order, unless it actually intended to launch a war or had an even stronger ally in its side.
Kagai grinned at the letter. "I suppose this is an acceptable condition. Are there any others?"
"Yes," Naruto said, a slight smile on his voice. "This is mine, however, and not the hokage's."
All of the others in the room looked at him -- this was not something any of the others, not even Sakura, knew about. "Oh?" the older ninja asked.
"Yes," Naruto said. "If I'm going to be responsible for sending my men and women into a war, then I want to be in charge. So, I will lead the attack... got it?"
"That's going a bit far," Kagai hesitantly pointed out.
"I know," Naruto said. "But that's my condition. Take it or leave it."
The two men stared each other in the eyes, one searching for something, the other trying to make a point with just a determined look. Finally, the older of the two gave a sigh, backing down. "Very well."
* * * * *
"There's one thing I don't understand."
That comment drew the attention of all four others in the room. "Wait a moment. You... you admit to not understanding something? You, Hanabi, the one who knows everything?" Futaba exclaimed.
"I don't pretend to understand the minds of idiots," the girl snorted, a touch of her old spirit returning to her. The others had all noticed her acting extremely subdued since word came in from Konoha about their civil war, and to some extent they were glad to see that return. "Which may be why I don't understand why I've been held back from getting involved in one war -- a war which, as of yet, still involves no fighting -- because it is too dangerous... yet I've been sent in as part of an advance force for another war -- one where we fully expect active combat to a degree no genin has been a part of since... well, I'm not sure when."
Naruto stepped up, grinning. "Well... I'm the best fighter in this group," he pointed out.
"I'm not sure I believe that you are any better then I am," Hanabi replied -- although there was a grin on her face to indicate she was mostly joking. If there was one thing her ill-fated attempt at running away taught her, it was that this boy was capable of far more then she believed... and that she wasn't anywhere near the level she thought she was at, if a mere Academy student could do so much to her as that Inari boy did. "But go on."
"I'm also pretty good at disguises and hiding," Naruto continued. "But I'm not very good at finding hidden things. Between the dogs you two puppy girls work with--"
"How many times do I have to say not to call me 'puppy girl,' Naruto-dono?"
"Actually, I kinda like the nickname, now," Futaba laughed, smirking at Hana.
"And your byakuugan, Hanabi-san," Naruto said, resuming his explanation with a wink in the older Inuzuka's direction before returning his attention to Hanabi -- who he had started using an honorific with as she had gotten much more respectful of him and the others. "We have the perfect team to look in and make sure the civilian evacuation has actually taken place before we launch the attack, and will be able to get a better picture of what size of force our enemies have in place now that they've recieved the warning. Daichi is used to working with you, and he'll help watch your backs... but I'm the real firepower, if battle is called for. Got it?"
Hanabi hesitated. "I'm not certain that this is a mission for genin."
"Maybe not normal genin," Naruto agreed. "But then, you aren't a normal genin, are you? You are a Hyuuga -- which puts you right up there with the elites, doesn't it?"
He was stroking her ego and he knew it. Sakura had, in fact, conducted the test on her bloodline -- secretly -- and it came out with very interesting results. Naruto hadn't gotten more than the gist of it all -- Sakura's explanation was a bit too technical for anyone who hadn't had at least a basic crash course in medical ninjitsu to understand completely -- but he understood certain things: Namely, that the Hyuuga's 'enhancements' had lead to them having certain unusual tendencies. Namely, they would be obsessive about the power of their bloodline. He'd never seen it in Hinata, actually, but then Hinata was unusual in many other aspects as well. It would, she said, occasionally lead to compulsive or even manic tendencies similar to those found among practitioners of berserker techniques -- in fact, the 'gene' (for lack of a better word, as this was hardly what most of the medical community outside of medi-nin would call a gene) she had found in the Hyuuga bloodline was very similar to the 'gene' required for berserker techniques to work. There was no seal she knew of which would work against the 'gene,' and she lacked the resources to develop one while in Blossom, but at least now they were aware of what they were dealing with. And Naruto wasn't above using that knowledge to manipulate the girl into doing the right thing.
"Yes," Hanabi agreed instantly, but then hesitated as confusion over the state of her clan set in. "But--"
"But nothing," Naruto snapped. "Listen, Hanabi-san, you may be a genin, but you're all I've got. Besides, I don't need a combat specialist for this mission -- I need surveillance. Now, will you join me for this mission... or am I going to have to call in someone else? Someone who may still be learning, but is willing to try... like, say, Adaha?"
"Over my dead body!" Hanabi snapped. Truthfully, she'd grown to like the boy -- that her father had suggested she actually marry the boy if the clan was destroyed back home didn't upset her too much, in fact, although she felt herself too young, really, to get married... that, and she didn't really like boys in that way, yet, though she had found herself agreeing to go out with that Inari boy in a date (one where she made it a point that they were only going as friends, since her options for any other sort of relationship with him were... limited). Liking the boy, however, did not make her like the concept of him being used as a ninja. There was still enough of her mother, drilling into her head the requirement that people like Adaha should be forced to submit to Hyuuga clan justice, that she couldn't approve of him just yet.
"It shouldn't come to that," Naruto pointed out. "Now... I think it's time for our final mission briefing, don't you?"
* * * * *
Notes: I used the Japanese word 'baka' above. NORMALLY, I would translate it into 'jerk' or 'idiot,' but in this case niether seemed appropriate. 'Baka,' however, does -- I can see Sakura call Naruto 'baka' for being oblivious, even at this point in their relationship. I can't really see her calling him 'jerk' or 'idiot,' however. Ah, well. I believe I mentioned, before, that there were a couple of different multi-chapter story arcs that had to take place before Kakashi returned. This is the first part of the last of those multi-chapter (as planned) story arcs, so sit tight. I initially thought this would be three chapters, but I may be able to squeeze it into two -- that last scene was supposed to be in the next chapter, but I realized I had to explain a couple things about Hanabi in order to temporarily resolve an issue I brought up last chapter. Because it's come a chapter early, I'm not entirely sure there's enough left of that part of the story for a full chapter on its own. We shall see. Next chapter: The Rainbow War begins. May be a larger chapter, depending on where the chapter break hits.