Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 27 ( Chapter 37 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: To my Mediaminer readers, is there someone there who knows how to format HTML to appear properly on that site? I've tried a few different things to get it to work, but nothing I try produces the correct spacing. On, it may strip my original spacing, but at least it replaces it with something functional and gives me a chance to make a few repairs once its uploaded... Mediaminer is jumbling my paragraphs together way too often, and I can't go back in and correct them once they're up without re-uploading the entire chapter. I'm writing this fic in OpenOffice, so if you can think of an alternative format to export it to (one that will allow it to show up properly on Mediaminer -- it won't upload raw OpenOffice files, at all) for uploading using that software, let me know. I neglected to thank the four or five people who explained what ANBU stood for. Er, I actually got two different versions -- one chinese, one Japanese -- so I'm not going to repeat it here... but it's an interesting bit of trivia for me to keep in mind. ANBU's role in this fic is very limited, so I don't expect it to matter much. GHuND may or may not even appear, even after my insistence on keeping it in the story.... (Then again, it may -- but if so, not until Volume 4. Lotsa stuff still has to happen before then) I will say -- once again -- that I don't intend to use the character books and data books as canon sources. If you insist on them being the source that the 'shunshin no jutsu' is a common technique, I don't care if Kishimoto wrote it or not, I'm just going to ignore you. Period. The ONLY canon evidence is in the manga and -- maybe, depending on circumstance -- the anime. Key thing to remember: Even if its by the author, character books and data books are draft material only, and the material in them is subject to change EVEN IF ITS ENTIRELY ACCURATE AT TIME OF PUBLICATION. Rin's reaction is more evidence, to me, then the character books (which, IIRC, were published ten or so volumes BEFORE Kakashi Gaiden), that what the Fourth was doing was something special. And it had nothing to do with the special kunai -- that was something, yes, but it occured much later in the story arc. And the concept that perhaps the shunshin was 'redesigned' AFTER Kakashi Gaiden by Kishimoto so that it can be a common technique is... not very likely, since the point of contention is a character book reference published BEFORE he'd started Kakashi Gaiden. However... it is possible he decided that, since he never referred to it by name in the previous parts of the manga, he could 'redesign' it so that the technique (as named) was exclusive to (or at least rarely used except by) the Fourth AFTER publishing the character book. Regardless, the shunshin no jutsu -- as named -- is going to remain an 'exclusive' to Naruto and the Fourth in this fic. Regarding Golden Flash vs. Yellow Flash... okay, the kanji refers to yellow, not gold. I give up... although I think one should consider idiomatic translations (in this case, an American idiom instead of a Japanese one) in these circumstances -- 'yellow flash,' in some parts of America, is slang for a blatant coward -- something I strongly dislike referring to with regards to the Fourth -- while in Japan it means something else. 'Blond flash' might be a more correct turn of phrase idiomatically, since they call blond hair yellow hair... but that stinks as a name, so I still feel 'Golden Flash' conveys more of what the sentiment is behind that name. Idiomatic translation is just as important as literal translation, in some cases -- I know, in part, because my late father made something of a name for himself in the Croatian-American community back in the early eighties helping a family friend, Antun Nizeteo, translate Croation literature and poetry. Antun Nizeteo was a native Croation who spoke English as a second language, so he would make literal translations and have my father convert them into idiomatic translations. It requires a VERY delicate touch, especially when dealing with something like poetry, but one thing that he said always had to be given idiomatic treatment was things which mean one thing in one country, but are a faux pas in another -- very much like the 'Yellow Flash' nickname, IMO. However, because some of you have insisted, Yellow Flash it is... in the future. I'm not going back to fix things like that, however. Please remember that Grass, while a significant power, is NOT on par with nations like Sound, Sand, Konoha, Rock, Cloud, or Mist... and that Naruto was utterly exhausted by his feat (although he perhaps shouldn't have been, as you will see). Think of the force of Grass nin in Rainbow as about the equal, in power, to the combined might of the Uchiha clan when Itachi destroyed it. This is sort of my way of pointing out 'Naruto is one of the big boys' to the rest of the world, the same way Itachi wiping out his own clan proved he was on a par with that class... although, again, Naruto still hasn't met a true peer in face-to-face combat since his return (his brief encounter with Fake Itachi in the manga not counting). (Orochimaru, Sasuke, Itachi, any kage-level ninja, etc. are still very much a challenge for him). With this chapter, I should pass 200,000 words as recorded by's word count. Hurray! (I'll point out that maybe fifty thousand of those words come from these author's notes, but hey... so what? That's still an accomplishment) To celebrate, I'll... well, hmm. I guess I could explain in a very minor spoileresque manner a bit about the upcoming plot (yeah, I know, what's different about that from all the other times I've written these blasted author's notes). Here goes: You'll have noticed that, at the start, much of this volume was centered around 'domestic' affairs in Blossom. After Sasuke came and went, it's moved on to 'international' events. Well, it's coming back to the 'domestic' side, again, and should stick here roughly until the end of the Volume. Volume 4 will be much more of a mix, throughout, but you don't need to worry about that yet. Also, there are at least two more Ino-centric chapters in this fic -- one in this Volume (though not for several chapters), one (more likely two, actually, but it might wind up being one) in Volume 4. (That note is for those of you who mentioned that you were missing Ino from the story, after all the build-up I did of her in the early part of the fic) She will continue to have a supporting role in many other chapters, however, as one would expect of Sakura's best friend and confidant. Anko's big role, as I've explained before, will be in Volume 4. The genin and Academy students' importance will be coming up soon. Hanabi's situation will not be resolved until Volume 4. Sakura the Prostitute makes only one more significant appearance -- and no, does not die in that appearance. Hana's done with her BIG role in this volume, although will continue to play as supporting cast until Volume 4. Sakura's mother may show up again, soon, but I have such a hard time writing her I've been reluctant to include her in roles where I just need 'a close friend family member -- any close friend or family member.' Ino's parents next appear in Volume 4. Sasuke will not appear again until Volume 4, but he'll play a major role when he does. Any of the 'Rookie Nine' (and Lee's team) not otherwise accounted for may or may not appear in the story in any significant role, but if they do it will be Volume 4. (Yes, Lee's role is a big one... but he doesn't get much 'camera time,' regardless) Tsunade will be little more than a passing reference until Volume 4, but then takes a major role. As far as the Akatsuki are concerned, their big splash occured between Volume 2 and 3. The only Akatsuki who will appear is Itachi -- the others have been 'handled' already, and will not be reappearing in a significant role. What happened to them? Well, I'm not writing that -- Kishimoto (hopefully) is. I thought I'd mentioned this before... oh, well. Erm... does anyone want to know the future significance of any of the other characters I may have forgotten to mention? (Kagai and Ikasu will both make additional -- very brief -- appearances in Volume 4) There, that's the 200,000 word Spoiler Special. Hope you had fun! I am well aware that this fic needs editing. I may come back and make revisions some time after it is done... however, in the meantime, I will continue to move forward with it as a draft. In regards to my other fanfiction: Yes, at some point, I will continue everything. At least everything here (there are a couple of fics not available on either my personal website, this website, or Mediaminer which I have abandoned) will be continued at some point, I hope -- even things like the Ushio and Tora fanfic which I posted a teaser chapter for almost five years ago and haven't done anything with, since. However, I'm going to try and finish this fic, first... and then, probably moving much slower, I'll go back to work on some of my other fanfics. From the latest volume of manga, it appears as if in the future some of the Naruto cast will be heading to Grass country. Erm... I shouldn't have to say this, but any information on Grass from the manga from this chapter (275) on will probably not match the information I've already released about the Grass in this fic. If I can incorporate any non-contradictory information in the story (assuming, of course, the Grass appear, again, in this fic... heh), I will. The same goes with anything in the newer chapters of the manga post ch. 263 (when I actually started this fic) which contradicts my background. Oh, and in answer to one particular review, naruto tastes pretty good in ramen (or its cousin noodle soup, udon), so I suspect Jiraiya actually DOES find it tasty. But that's... not quite what I meant.
Chapter 27
A mostly recovered Naruto walked side-by-side with Sakura... moving a little slower then usual, perhaps, but certainly not so slow the average person would notice. His initial injuries were almost as bad (though not worse, as Sakura had initially thought... then again, Sakura had never seen the full extent of his injuries, before) as he'd suffered fighting Sasuke, but he was recovering much faster -- his kyuubi chakra was able to help him, this time, and he was recovering quickly thanks to it. After the battle, most of the teams left for Blossom... but he had been taken to Rainbow, once Hana's group had joined him and Sakura, to recover for a few days alongside the other wounded -- the only other wounded person, Konohamaru, who had been hit by a poisoned kunai. The genin was treated, and found to be able to recover quickly, but Naruto was not. Daichi had taken Konohamaru's place in Ebisu's team, and Hana's team had remained behind while Rainbow was rebuilt.
If any of the Rainbow wondered just what had happened during that battle, they remained silent about it. The prisoner's odd claims that they were battling the kyuubi seemed too far-fetched to be explored... or perhaps just too worrisome. They had treated Naruto, and the other Blossom ninja stuck in thier village, as heroes... although with perhaps a bit of nervousness as they served them. However, once their invalids were well, again, it was time for them to return home.
So, with just Hana, Hanabi, Futaba, Sakura, and an ailing Konohamaru, he slowly made his way back to Blossom once both of the wounded graduated to 'walking wounded.' Truth be told, he could fight another battle, in a pinch, but Sakura was still concerned about his chakra levels... which was why they had walked and used horse-drawn carts for the entire trip, instead of relying on the typically much faster (for a ninja) method of transport, tree hopping. His chakra levels were, perhaps, a bit lower then normal... but kyuubi's were back to normal, and that meant he could access more chakra then just about any other living human, despite his 'weakness.'
His senses, however, were just as strong as ever. Something was moving around, following them. In his earlier days, he'd probably have thrown a kunai at it, and it would have turned out to be some sort of bug, or maybe a rabbit, or some other wild animal... if he hit anything at all. Now, however, he knew to wait for a while. As long as it didn't try to attack, whatever was out there could stay hidden... at least, it could until he was certain of what it was. After all, no-one else seemed to notice whatever it was, not even the Inuzukas, so he figured he was safe.
It became more and more obvious to him, though, that they were being followed. Finally, he grew impatient. "Whoever you are," he called. "You might as well come out, now -- I know where you are."
"It took you this long?" a familiar voice sighed. Landing in front of them -- and dressed in an odd fur coat -- Umino Iruka landed in front of them. "Maybe I need to give you a bit of a remedial course in watching your surroundings. So, Naruto, I heard you got hurt?"
"Nah," Naruto grinned casually. "I just overdid it a bit. And I've known you were following us for some time -- since that tree the lightning hit, about three miles back."
"Iruka-sensei?" Sakura gasped. "What are you doing here?"
"And why are you trying to hide yourself from us?" Hana asked, looking closely at his furs. She, too, had been aware that something was following them, but the scent of some sort of big cat had convinced her it was merely a wild animal searching for strays.
"You aren't the only clan with good noses," Iruka pointed out. "There are some in Grass who are, too. As far as why I'm here... well, thanks to that little mission tailing someone who we couldn't find, I finally managed the promotion to jounin. And Kakashi-sama requested that I and two of the other jounin stay in Blossom for a little while, until we were sure they would stick to the treaties they've signed with us. I was out on patrol when I found you. I was curious as to why you were walking, when you could make it to the village in just under an hour if you started tree hopping."
"Our medic over here," Naruto said, grinning as he pointed with his thumb at Sakura, "Said Konohamaru and I were still too weak from the fight to risk tree-hopping except in an emergency, even if we were fit to travel otherwise. I always do what she says... but you said Kakashi-sensei gave you some orders? Does that mean he's back?"
"We got in a couple days ago, before anyone had returned from the mission to Rainbow," Iruka explained. "Jiraiya, sadly, was passed out, drunk and lying in a brothel, when we got here, and there was a bit of a panic before someone in the know finally explained what was going on."
Naruto narrowed his eyes. "Ah... Ero-sennin earning his nickname, huh? So, um... how did your mission go?"
"Well, we weren't really expecting to capture Sasuke," Iruka explained, shrugging. "So that part of it was unsuccessful. Thankfully for my promotion's sake, our orders took that into account, and had more realistic goals for it to be considered accomplished. We know he was last seen heading into Sand country, and confirmed that Yuugao-san was with him willingly and not as a prisoner. With those successes, we felt we had accomplished what little we could of our mission and returned home. We're really only a week early, so I don't think it's a big deal, is it?"
"Not to me," Naruto agreed.
He had gotten close enough, finally, that Hana was able to distinguish his own, personal scent underneath that of the fur he wore. With that, she was able to confirm it was, in fact, the Iruka she and most of the others present knew. "So," she said, gesturing to the genin that they should start moving again. "Are you going to keep us company all the way back to Blossom, or are you going back on patrol?"
"And miss all the fireworks when Kakashi-sama decides to 'chat' with Naruto about exactly how foolhearty he was in the Rainbow expedition?" Iruka laughed. "Naruto, I think he's going to be telling you to add whatever that technique was you used to your list of kinjutsu. He might also want to talk about you making a few rash decisions in his absense."
"I've made a couple mistakes," Naruto admitted, sighing. "I don't think Rainbow was one of them, though."
"Nonsense!" Sakura exclaimed. "You've done a remarkable job keeping things running, Naruto-kun! From what I've seen, a better job then Kakashi-sensei had been doing, in fact!"
After gaping at the sheer blasphemy of her words, Naruto shook his head. "I fixed a bunch of mistakes he was making, yeah... but he has yet to get anyone killed. I have."
Sakura winced. He was still feeling guilty about Genma's death -- something which, to the best of her knowledge, Naruto could not have prevented. "Naruto..." she started, though she didn't know how to finish.
"Got someone killed?" his former Academy instructor replied sharply. "Who? When?"
"Genma-san," Naruto explained softly, closing his eyes. "I... I sent him on a mission, and he--"
"Are you blaming yourself for that?" Iruka snorted in disbelief. "I've read those reports. Trust me, that is not what Kakashi is going to want to talk with you about. He won't yell at you for things beyond your control, after all...."
Naruto shrugged. "Whatever. Let's get this over with."
Iruka glanced around to see if any of the others were willing to step in on this. Hana looked embarrassed, but resigned. Konohamaru looked sad, but didn't seem willing to say anything. Futaba looked rather angry at something, but kept her tongue. Hanabi was stoic, but there seemed almost a slight tinge of respect in her as she looked at Naruto -- something akin to a miracle, since from what he'd heard around Blossom she and the chuunin had been rather hostile towards each other, and he knew that the faction of the Hyuuga clan he would have thought Hanabi to side on had wanted the Uzumaki clan blotted from existence for decades for merely presuming to be strong enough to challenge them. Sakura...
Well, what do you know? Iruka thought. It looks like her mother was right -- Sakura-chan's fallen for Naruto, after all.
"Look," he finally said, deciding that -- despite now being in love with him -- Sakura had either exhausted her arguments or had just given up. "Every leader of a military organization has to face the fact he will lose people under him, if he ever takes them into combat... and often, even if he doesn't. There was no way you could have predicted that assassins would be attacking at all, much less that day and time. Even if you had, and therefore refused the mission... if Genma hadn't been the one to die, it would have been that kid. Either way, someone is dead... and it was entirely out of your control."
Naruto sighed. "I purposely sent the weakest genin team, to give them more experience, because I didn't think there was a threat. If I'd sent, say, Hana's team... they never would have been able to even come close, for one thing, thanks to the dogs, and the genin might have been able to help. There wouldn't have been anyone dead, if that had happened."
"My team," Hana explained slowly. "Was not available."
"Kakashi-sensei and I took you out of the game far too long," Naruto sighed. "You could have been the ones -- we don't need your help every class."
"So that's why we've been getting a few missions, lately," Hana mused. She glanced around, her eyes seeing Sakura and just how defeated the girl looked. Hana had been keeping a close watch on the younger woman for some time, and had noticed her appearing more and more stressed as she worked to help Naruto through this difficulty. She had been trying not to let it show -- probably to keep him from worrying -- but the strain was almost too much for her. She was going to snap, soon, if Naruto didn't snap out of it. He had been able to maintain his position, and hadn't let his grief affect his work... or even his personal life, but it was doing something to him. Everyone had noticed how tense Naruto got whenever he gave an order -- it wouldn't stop him from giving one, but he was obviously struggling. Sakura had gotten his nightmares to go away, but seemed unable to progress any further... which meant she would need someone else to intervene for a bit. "God help me for saying this, Naruto-kun, but... you and Kakashi-sama have been right. You forget how much access you've allowed Sakura, Hanabi, and I while we've been helping you with your administrative duties. I know, just as well as you do, how important it is to get those Academy cadets out the door with a competent set of skills as quickly as possible. Maybe you don't need our help every class... but maybe those students do. Maybe, because my team was there those days, those students will have learned something they otherwise wouldn't have that keeps them alive. In this case, Naruto-kun... you shouldn't second-guess yourself."
Silence met that. He seemed to actually be mulling it over for a bit, but appeared rather reluctant to accept her words. Finally, Naruto shrugged and changed the subject. "Well, I guess I'm not in charge any more, if Kakashi-sensei's back in town. I'd like to suggest we get going, anyway, however...."
Hana smirked, noticing a grateful smile on Sakura's face -- they both had seen him at least consider it. That was progress -- the first visible progress outside of the end of his nightmares. "Yes, sir."
As they walked, there was something else Iruka noticed among the others. Whether he was officially 'in command' or not... when it came to the standard marching formation, it was Naruto they formed around as the leader -- Hana included. It seemed, at least to his former teacher, as if the boy who had always claimed he wanted to be the hokage had taken a big step in that direction: He'd learned how to take charge... and keep it.
* * * * *
"Ah, Naruto-san," Kakashi addressed the blond boy as he stepped through the doors into their shared office. "Welcome back. How's your health."
"I think I'm fine, but ask little miss worry-wart over here," Naruto snorted, gesturing to Sakura. She, Hana, Hanabi, and Iruka were all following him in. Hanabi ran to Naruto's desk and began picking up her private papers while the others got settled in to various chairs lining the room. "She thinks I'm still too weak."
"You're still only two thirds your normal chakra level, Naruto," Sakura fussed, a little annoyed at the nickname he'd just given her. "And a third of your normal chakra is more then I can generate in a year. If you were perfectly healthy, it would have all regenerated by now, but you seem to be missing a considerable amount for no apparent reason."
Naruto glanced around the room, noting that Hanabi had already stepped out and closed the door behind her. "Kyuubi's having a bit of trouble," Naruto explained softly. "He really came through for me, back there, actually hurting himself to give me more chakra. He butted heads with my seal one too many times, and it's flared up. He's not able to push his own healing abilities through to me quite as quickly... but he thinks it'll pass soon."
"I'll check it out after we're done here," Jiraiya said, stepping out of the shadows from behind Kakashi. "See if I can speed things along."
"If you think you've got the time... Jiraiya-sama."
Jiraiya winced. Naruto only called him 'Jiraiya-sama' when he was extremely pissed at the legendary ninja, which meant he'd done something dreadfully upsetting to the boy... though for the life of him, he didn't know what that might have been. "I... I'll make sure I've got the time, Naruto."
"So," Kakashi spat, leaning forward in his chair and glaring at Naruto darkly. "I already know you took my village into war without me... and you got someone killed on your watch. What else have you got to show for the past three months of being in charge, huh?"
Naruto shrunk back, stung. He could defend himself on the whole war thing, but he couldn't say anything about Genma's death. He was responsible -- he knew it, whatever anyone else said -- and every time he thought about it, his gut clenched. That Kakashi, of all people -- one of the few adults on the planet who actually both knew and respected him -- would attack him on it hurt more then any injury he'd ever sustained in his entire career as a ninja. It actually felt worse then the time Sasuke punched a hole through his lung... and that was saying something.
Everyone was shocked at Kakashi's outburst -- even Jiraiya, who thought he had been briefed, already, on everything Kakashi was intending to say. Iruka looked extremely displeased, but was even more concerned about how pale -- or perhaps even sickly green -- Naruto had gotten at those words.
Hana was the first to make a visible protest. "That's unfair!" she cried. "And you know it, too, damn you!"
Sakura didn't even bother saying anything. After taking one look at Naruto and seeing his reaction, she stepped forward casually, walking around behind the desk. The look in her eyes gave Kakashi pause, and he moved to fend her off, but Sakura didn't care. She reached out and grabbed one of his hands -- if he'd been standing, it might have been harder to secure a grip, but she had the advantage here. She held that hand in her own, turning to look in Kakashi's one good eye. Her face was blank and impassive... but her actions were hardly either.
"Crack!" went the bones in the silver-haired ninja's hand as she squeezed, hard. Kakashi winced and let out a pained gasp, but otherwise did nothing. So, she twisted, shattering the bones in his forearm. When he still refused to scream, she pulled his arm out of its socket, breaking even more bones as she wrapped his arm around the arm rest of his office chair. Finally, she let him go.
"I don't know who you are," she said, her voice trembling with barely restrained hatred. "But you cannot be Kakashi-sensei. At least not the Kakashi-sensei I have known all my career -- he would never strike out like that against Naruto-kun. Who the hell are you?"
"I... I'm really K-kakashi," he said, stumbling over his words and sweating because of the pain. "I--"
"Liar!" Sakura snapped, slamming her down onto his shattered arm. A fragment of one of his bones broke through the skin before popping back inside, finally eliciting that scream she had been aiming for. "Tell me who you are, right now, or so help me... what I did to that arm is going to seem like the greatest pleasure you can remember!"
Distantly, over the thundering of the rage-heated blood in her ears, she heard Hana say something about how she was wrong, and this was actually Kakashi... but Sakura refused to believe that. When the man sitting in front of her refused to say anything, she started to reach over and do the same to another part of his anatomy -- a more personal part.
"Stop," a soft voice said in her ear, as arms -- very familiar arms, arms she knew and loved -- encircled her, stopping her gently. She struggled a bit, though not very hard -- she wouldn't risk hurting those arms, nor the boy attached to him, before surrendering to the embrace. She spun around, tears in her eyes, pulling him into her own hug.
"I'm sorry, Naruto-kun," She whispered in his ear repeatedly. "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry you had to be betrayed like that... you know he's wrong, don't you? You have to know... have to understand! It wasn't your fault, dammit... and if what that bastard over there said starts making you think it is again, I don't care if he's the real Kakashi or not -- I'm going to kill him."
"Shh," he hushed, stroking her back calmingly as he rocked her in his embrace. To his astonishment, he found that she was actually more broken up about this then he was. "Relax... I'm okay. It's all right. I can deal with it, and he had the right to ask that question...."
"No he did not!" Sakura insisted frantically. "You've been hurt enough by this already. I know -- remember? I'm the one who's been coaxing you through all those nightmares, I'm the one who's been there when you broke down, I'm the one who understands... he doesn't. He doesn't have the right. No-one has the right to torture you with this any more...."
Kakashi, now being ignored by the couple, did his best to disentangle his arm from the struts of the seat, hissing every time he moved. He'd already done what little emergency treatment he could on his shoulder, which restored circulation into the wounded region... but there was little else he could do. Off-handedly, he knew he was in shock... and, in an odd way, was grateful for it. If he hadn't been in shock, he knew that he'd be fretting over the numbness which was penetrating his arm.
Finally, other hands came in, helping him get free of the chair. He looked up to see two jounin and one legendary ninja staring at him darkly, if a little surprised by the violence that had just taken place. Iruka was looking down at him as a parent would to the man he'd just found beating his kid, Hana had a rather feral snarl on her face, and Jiraiya... looked disappointed.
"Crap," Kakashi said, wincing when he accidentally jolted his arm. "Next time I intentionally try and provoke someone, I'm going to make sure that it's only a shadow clone waiting to see the reaction, and not the real me." He felt like throwing up, the pain was so great, but he knew that probably wouldn't be a good thing right now -- everyone was disgusted with him, enough. He wanted to seek medical attention, as well, but the only person in the whole village who could treat injuries this severe was the now almost catatonic woman in Naruto's arms -- the same woman who had done this to him. His best bet was to wait until she'd calmed down, regained her senses, and realized that she should probably fix the damage she'd caused. He didn't want to pass out, however, so he tried to concentrate on talking. "Let me guess -- I went about the wrong tact in trying to get him to explain his command decisions, huh?"
Hana was furious. "Sakura has been working on him for almost two months, now, trying to help him recover from the guilt of having sent Genma to his death. While he's continued to function far beyond anyone's expectations -- including Tsunade's -- he's been letting that incident dwell on him ever since it occured. Everyone has done everything they could to convince him that anyone in his position would have done the same thing, and that he made the right decision with the information he had, and the best we've been able to do -- or rather, Sakura has been able to do, since she has been just about the only person he'd listen to about all this, was get his nightmares to stop. I think, just about two or three hours ago, we finally made a breakthrough and got him to start thinking rationally about it. And, in all of ten seconds, you ruin all that work."
Kakashi winced -- this time, for reasons other then his arm. "Damn... but I don't get it. Why does he feel so torn up about it? As far as I know, he barely ever even talked to Genma -- didn't know him. I understand some grief, but... no more then you'd expect for a casual acquaintance. Why is he so torn up about this?"
Jiraiya sighed. "Kakashi-san... what is the thing you feel the most guilt about?"
That caused the injured jounin to shake his head, almost laughing in his delirium. "Um... is that a trick question?"
The old pervert waved him off. "Right. Okay, the think you feel the most guilt about that has occured in the past five years or so?"
That was also a pretty stupid question, in Kakashi's mind, but at least he was willing to say it aloud. "Not doing what I could to keep Sasuke-kun from turning traitor."
The questioning started going faster. "What could you have done, though?"
"I could have trained him more."
"How would that have helped?"
"He wouldn't have felt inferior -- he would have known he could grow to match Itachi while still in Konoha."
"But why do you care? Was Sasuke-kun your friend?"
"No. He was the person I was supposed to train and protect."
"But he left, anyway, despite the fact you couldn't have known the circumstances which lead him to betray us. So you feel guilty about that, right?"
"Of course!"
"Then don't you see why Naruto feels so guilty about Genma?" Jiraiya asked, finally making his point. "Can't you see that he felt he had a duty to keep Genma and his entire team -- and everyone else in this village -- protected? And that he feels he failed that duty, even though he did everything right with the information he had at hand? You've been blaming yourself over Sasuke, and it's been three years, now. It's only been a little under two months for Naruto to try and recover... and he's a lot more emotional of a person then you are. Do you understand what's going on, now?"
"I... I think so," Kakashi gasped out, as the numbness in his arm started to fade and the pain returned. "Um... do you think Sakura-chan would be willing to fix this arm of mine she broke, yet? I'm, uh, sort of in dire straights at the moment."
Sakura, her attention drawn by her name being called, spun around in Naruto's arms to face him. "You'll have to go to Konoha to get that fixed. There are only three people in the world who can repair that damage... and you've just made one of those three so disgusted with you that she wouldn't lift a finger to save your life."
Kakashi winced. "Could you, um, at least fix it enough so that I can make the trip? Or maybe get the bleeding to stop, anyway?"
"No. Try the hospital."
Sighing, the silver-haired jounin gathered his strength and slowly stood up. He managed one step before nearly collapsing again in pain, only to be caught by Iruka. "I guess I should get you to the hospital," Iruka sighed, dragging him away.
Stepping in close to Hana -- in as non-threatening a way as possible, as he just wanted to talk and not use the opportunity for his usual shenanigans, Jiraiya whispered, "Despite what I told Kakashi-san, that reaction of Sakura's was... rather extreme. I know she's been on the edge, a bit, for a variety of reasons, but still... did something happen on that mission? Something I might not know about?"
"I think she had a nervous breakdown because she saw that Naruto was about to have one," Hana suggested, shrugging. "As far as what else might be causing this... well, he was hurt -- but you knew about that, right?"
"Yeah," Jiraiya grudgingly admitted. "Although I'm not sure how."
"He exhausted his chakra," Hana explained. "As well as kyuubi's, apparently. He nearly had a case of negative chakra, from what I was told."
"That... that shouldn't be possible," Jiraiya exclaimed, blinking. "Just how the hell did that happen?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Hana sighed. "But he was pulling a high load of constant drain on his chakra for a significant amount of time."
"The night before the battle, he joined my team on an expedition into Rainbow Village -- largely a scouting exercise to ascertain the enemy strength, but we were also interested in discovering how many civilians, if any, might have been left behind. He, however, decided to conceal himself by transforming into one of my kunai. He remained as a kunai for three hours, while my team conducted an almost complete scout of the village before we were discovered. I threw him behind the enemy, along with a concealing barrage of additional kunai. He then used two special techniques which I believe can consume high amounts of chakra. The rasengan was the first -- and I'm certain that one uses a lot of chakra, considering how much was visible. Then he used a technique he called the body flicker -- a move I don't know, and therefore cannot determine the amount of chakra it made him bleed off."
"Damn," Jiraiya sighed. "Looks like I'm going to have to give that boy a talking to, despite Kakashi's blunder. He's not allowed to use that technique in most circumstances."
"A kinjutsu?" Hana asked, surprised.
"It wouldn't be for most people," Jiraiya sighed. "But... well, it's complicated -- I may tell you about it later, if you're still interested. But if it were that he would have collapsed then and there, so go on."
"Well," Hana replied, frowning. "We all started using chakra to enhance our speed, slightly, as we made our way out of the village that night. Then, when we got back, I and my team got some rest while he took care of the report and made the final amendments to his plan, which he presented to us in the morning. We met, and discussed the plan -- he would attack the village, himself, alone, and chase the enemy towards the eight other teams that would all be set up to capture or kill any fleeing Grass ninja who came our way. We waited until dusk -- and, to the best of my knowledge, he didn't spend much of that waiting period resting, if any -- where upon he created a couple dozen shadow clones who would help with communication between us and who would help 'herd' the enemy into our grasp. As far as what happened in the village, well, we're not sure -- the Grass nin we caught were saying something about kyuubi attacking, but Naruto assured us that it was just a projection of his red chakra and not anything else."
"When he was fighting Gaara," Jiraiya noted, "He had to transform Gamabunta into something with teeth and claws. He used the image of kyuubi, then... so this isn't unprecedented. Nevertheless, I'll have to warn him not to try something like that in the future -- too much of that, and he will ruin the little bit of acceptance he has gotten around Konoha. They now think he can control the kyuubi's chakra -- which he can, obviously -- but if rumors came out about a 'kyuubi' who was attacking villages, well, they just might start thinking his control has slipped."
Hana nodded. "Yes, I agree."
"You don't need to worry about kyuubi, even if my powers do slip," Naruto said from across the room. "And I could hear the two of you talking about me all the way over here. Next time you want to hide something from me, try not being so loud, okay?"
"We weren't trying to hide, exactly," Hana explained, approaching him alongside Jiraiya. "At least I wasn't. I just didn't want to disturb you and Sakura-chan."
"I'm okay, now," Sakura sighed. "And... and I know I overreacted with Kakashi-sensei. After the hospital team sets it, I'll heal his arm for him... although, if he's had any of the trainee medi-nin try and fix it for him, I'll have to re-break it to do so," she pointed out with a grin. "Naruto being hurt did have something to do with it. The fact that he hasn't healed, yet -- either the older wound of Genma's death or the newer one of his chakra exhaustion -- worries me, and I'm afraid I took it out on sensei unfairly."
"I'm sorry for worrying you, Sakura-chan," Naruto sighed, giving her a squeeze. "I think I'm better about Genma, though... yeah, that stung -- especially coming from Kakashi-sensei -- but your reaction, I think, surprised the pain right out of me. If you're going to do that every time I feel a little guilty about something, maybe I should just try and not feel so guilty about it, huh?"
Sakura chuckled wearily. "Don't feel guilty about things you shouldn't feel guilty about. Guilt, however, like all other emotions, has its place in keeping a person healthy, too... but don't let it consume you, okay?"
"Sure thing, Sakura-chan!"
Jiraiya grinned, slightly, seeing his apprentice doing so well. He, too, was aware of the secret engagement between the young couple in front of them, and he had been greatly heartened when he found out -- it meant that Naruto was willing to try and put his nightmares over Genma behind him and get back into life. And, whenever he had been with Sakura, he had seemed lively enough... but he had been letting the shadow of Genma's death hang over him, nonetheless. That seemed gone, now -- well mostly -- and all it had cost them was the temporary loss of one of Kakashi's arms.
Still, he wasn't going to risk breaking this fragile peace by being too rough with him when he chewed the boy out.
"Naruto?" he inquired gently.
"Yeah, Ero-sennin?"
"Didn't I tell you not to use the shunshin no jutsu?"
Naruto's eyes narrowed. "Didn't I tell you to look after Blossom in my absence, Jiraiya-sama? I understand that you were found passed out and drunk in a brothel when Kakashi-sensei arrived."
Jiraiya winced. "Look, we can talk about that later, but not right now. Look, Naruto... I told you the shunshin no jutsu was a kinjutsu to you for a reason. The technique requires that you 'throw' your chakra into where you want to go and then have it 'pull' you in. The dual chakra nature of your body, however, makes that process... dangerous. There's the possibility that kyuubi could get free, which is why I told you to only use it as a last ditch effort to protect all of Konoha. A small battle with a little village like Grass's contingent in Rainbow is not adequate justification for using that technique."
"I told you," Naruto sighed. "Even if kyuubi is freed, you don't need to worry. He will protect his own." He squeezed Sakura slightly. "So he won't hurt anyone of Blossom or Konoha, any more."
Jiraiya hesitated. Apparently, the boy honestly believed that... and he might be right, given that no-one really knew what the long term effects were on the bijuu of a jinchuuriki like Naruto's and Gaara's. "Still, it is rather dangerous for you to be attempting something like that. It... it might.... Um, Naruto... you said that the seal had 'flared up' and that kyuubi was having trouble passing chakra through to you. What did you mean by that?"
Naruto scratched the back of his head. "Well... I guess you could say it kind of 'leaks,' a bit. It's like trying to plug a leak in a water balloon while you're still filling it -- you need a third hand to pinch the leak shut while you're using you're using your other hands to pour in the water. Whenever he pushes chakra through, some of it drains back into him in a rather dangerous way unless he tries to shield himself against it."
Jiraiya's eyes widened. "Sakura... step away from Naruto for a moment, please."
"Why?" Sakura asked, confused.
"Because I need to fix Naruto's seal," he said. "And I need to do it before his own red chakra kills him."
* * * * *
Notes: Well, it seems as if Jiraiya's confrontation with Naruto went a bit different then I originally planned. Ah, well -- most of the points I intended him to make came across pretty well, anyway, and I think what I traded out for it (a more complete and decisive Sakura-Kakashi confrontation) made up for it, plus it provides a better lead-in to the next chapter then the one I'd originally envisioned. Next chapter: Naruto's connection to the kyuubi must be repaired, and Kakashi's odd behavior -- and the state of affairs in Blossom when he left -- is explained. Partially.