Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 29 ( Chapter 39 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: Minor clarification -- to my mind, the council is one organization, and the advisors (the Third's former teammates) are another, in the administration of Konoha. The hokage is the executive branch, the council is the legislative branch. In theory, they're equal in power, so a conflict between them could be pretty serious, but just like in real life scenarios, not necessarily so serious that the country cannot function. Blossom is an ancilliary power of Konoha, but is under the direct administrative control of the hokage -- Kakashi COULD have ignored the orders from the council with no legal repercussions, and was planning to, until he heard about kyuubi's appearance in Rainbow and figured there might be something worth investigating after all... and, if he ignored those orders, he might be LEGALLY covered, but he likely would have ruined his career in Konoha should the council ever find out. Remember, it was the council which prevented the Fourth from marrying Anko, so it does have considerable power, and so ignoring its orders -- especially when they might be right about something -- is not a good idea. Final words on the 'Golden Flash' vs. 'Yellow Flash' thing. I get bugged about this much more and I'll start calling him 'Blond Flash' just to tick people off. Warning, mild profanity: My view on the two names goes something like this. Suppose I lived in a country which spoke madituponese. I write about a great hero in this language, whose strength was so legendary that it was said he could bear the whole weight of a laden donkey. He is given a great nickname to honor this achievement, which he uses often. Someone translates his story into English... and we are stuck with the legendary 'Ass Whole.' To me, giving the Fourth the name 'Yellow Flash' is the same as giving that man the name 'Ass Whole,' as in the part of the country I grew up a 'yellow flash' was a coward who ran from everything. It means something COMPLETELY different in the two different languages, so something really should be done to fix it. 'Blond Flash' sounds silly (as, say, 'Donkey Whole' would), but 'Golden Flash' ain't half bad, and it carries the spirit behind his name better then what either name would mean in English. That said, I will use the too literal 'Yellow Flash' translation you people are insisting upon, but I refuse to like it. Were the 'kyuubi sightings' a lie made up by the Hyuuga? Um... probably. After all, there's only one kyuubi, and we know where he's been, so if there WAS anything they were seeing, it wasn't the kyuubi. So... either the Hyuuga are making it all up, or there's something being seen that has been confused for the kyuubi. I won't say which it is, however, because the story has yet to say either way (and it may be one of those things that get left up to the reader's interpretation -- just fair warning, there). Something I'm not sure anyone caught: The Administrative building and the surrounding area had been evacuated prior to Kakashi 'provoking' Naruto, so obviously SOMEONE (Kakashi) thought there was something to those rumors -- especially after hearing the news from Rainbow. But suspicion, alone, wasn't proof in his case. If the Hyuuga were taking a rumor and embellishing on it to make it more believable (in their eyes), then perhaps they might even think there was SOMETHING to the rumors when there isn't, even if it is not what they're claiming they think it to be. About Arashi's family name as it appears on the toad scroll... sorry. I had bad data. Notice I haven't had anyone use the name 'Arashi' since then. I used 'Arashi' in the first place as it appeared to be fanon for the Fourth's first name, not because of the scroll -- I am terrible at coming up with names, myself, and that is one of the few sorts of things I will intentionally go along with when it comes to fanon (I take names from where I can get them, I'm so bad at it... I'm not 100 percent certain that I didn't accidentally give any of my original male characters feminine names, or my original female characters masculine names). If his name on the scroll is really 'Kazama Arashi' (is it Kazama or Kazana? Kazana would make a LOT more sense to me, given some of the naming conventions Kishimoto has used in the past), and that really is where the fanon originated, then perhaps I should reconsider that name, or at least add some back story as to why it would be 'Kazama' and not 'Uzumaki' Arashi (that might be more interesting, in fact, and would genuinely fit in with the storyline as it is now) that he signed on the scroll. This is still a 'to be decided' situation. For the record, Kakashi does NOT have the mangekyou sharingan in this fic, as he appears to have in the latest chapter of the manga. Urgh, Kishimoto better have a whale of an explanation for that one.... Does anyone think I should pay any attention to a reviewer who uses the handle 'i hate you' and whose review consists of 'you are such a bad writher this is worse than nothing!How can Kakashi and Jirayta act like that!THink before you write sucker!' beyond, well, posting it here for everyone to laugh at? No? Didn't think so. (How does someone like that expect to get taken at all seriously, anyway?) Thanks for the giggles, Mr. 'i hate you,' and have a wonderful day!

Chapter 29
"I'm still not entirely clear how you can access kyuubi's chakra on demand, like you do," Sakura sighed, towelling off after a long training session. "I'm only getting an inconsistent trickle most of the time I call on it, unless I'm out of my normal chakra."
"Simple," Naruto said, accompanying her as they left the gymnasium. This had been the sixth week of their training following her acquisition of part of the kyuubi, and the sixth week that Sakura had managed to do more to him during thier sparring sessions because of the 'distractions' she was constantly presenting him then all of his other sparring partners in Blossom combined. Sakura had taken to constantly wearing halter-tops and other shirts that exposed her midriff -- and the seal -- to any interested viewers... and Naruto was always interested. She said it was to show her 'mark of pride,' but Naruto wondered if it might be more than that. "I can do it because I won't take no for an answer. That, and I don't need it any more... my own natural chakra actually equals his, normally."
"I noticed," Sakura shot back wryly. "So how do I go about even getting 'no' from him, anyway? I've already chatted with him -- a couple times, in fact -- just like you said to. He hasn't said 'no,' yet, but I still can't access any chakra until I'm drained."
"It's probably you, then," Naruto mused. "I bet you're just telling yourself you don't have that much chakra, and so you refuse to even try and draw that much together for any technique. Happened to me, once or twice, back when I was learning my summoning techniques."
"Tsunade-shishou was trying to teach me that," Sakura thought. "I never was able to draw enough chakra together to summon a combat-ready slug, though... just little ones which aren't useful for much other then spy work. I have the technique down, though, so maybe I could try again."
Naruto sweatdropped. "Erm... I suggest you not try learning how to pull that much chakra together the way ero-sennin taught me how to."
"Oh?" Sakura asked, amused. "What method was that?"
"Erm... he took me to my favorite restaurant, tried to get me to hug my favorite girl -- who pounded the living daylights out of my, by the way..."
"Sorry," Sakura laughed.
"And then tossed me off a cliff."
She winced. "Succeed or die trying, huh? Ouch. If I'd known, even then, I would have let you hug me. Then I'd kick your ass for it once you turned up alive the next day."
"I didn't even know until I was about to be tossed off the cliff," Naruto pointed out. "And I was in the hospital for three days, afterwards. So how--"
"Ah, here you are Naruto-sam... er, Naruto-sempai," Daichi said from the doorway. "Kakashi-sama said he has a job for you, Sakura-sempai, and Ino-sempai."
Naruto and Sakura glanced at each other in surprise. They had been left much to their own devices since his return, mostly to train and teach, as the hospital had not required Sakura's services except as a teacher and Kakashi had suggested that Hanabi keep her job, depriving Naruto of the office work he'd grown accustomed to. Coming after the... incident... which had occured on his return, they had been a little suspicious -- niether of them believed their former sensei was vindictive, nor did they think he'd believed the rumors the Hyuuga were trying to spread about the kyuubi (at least, they hoped they were just rumors. If it was something else, they were a bit afraid of what that might mean). After discussing it over dinner one night, they came to the conclusion that he had some job in mind that he was saving them for. As the weeks went by, this was seeming less and less likely... but, perhaps, this was what they had been waiting for.
Daichi joined the young couple as they made thier way to the administrative building. Much to their surprise, the entire class of genin and their instructors were waiting for them as they entered the office.
"Ah, Sakura-chan, Naruto, you're here," Kakashi said tiredly. "Eh... sit down, please. We still need to wait for Ino-chan."
"Is this some kind of mission?" Naruto asked impatiently.
"Not one that you'll be a part of," Kakashi answered. "But I do need your help to prepare for it."
Ino ran in, panting slightly. "Sorry I'm late."
"That's okay," Kakashi said. "Take a seat, and we'll get down to business."
"Certainly," Ino said, but then blinked. All of the seats were taken. "On second thought... I think I'll stand."
Sakura grinned, standing up. "Oh, you can have my seat, Ino-chan," she said, before slipping into Naruto's lap. "I'll just share."
Ino laughed. "Sure thing, Sakura-chan."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. While it had been fairly obvious that Sakura and Naruto were dating since before he left Blossom to hunt Sasuke, they hadn't been anywhere near that close to each other before he left. It was still strange, for him, seeing them act that way... and he wondered, vaguely, if the sharing of kyuubi had anything to do with it. He made a mental note to keep an eye on them, just to make sure that the beast wasn't influencing them inappropriately.
"Let's begin, shall we?" he said, putting that aside for later. "As you are all well aware, we have been preparing our genin for the chuunin exam since we arrived here. We were expecting to be able to send them off to Konoha in a couple months time to take that exam." He paused. "Unfortunately, the situation in Konoha makes sending our genin there... politically impossible. There is a civil war going on with several of the clans -- some of whom are represented here, in this very room -- and, while that civil war hasn't devolved into open combat, there have been reports of assassination attempts, thefts, vandalism, and other signs of disorder. The hokage sent me instructions saying that Konoha could not necessarily provide the appropriate atmosphere for the test, and therefore recommends we take alternate measures."
"What sort of alternate measures?" Naruto asked. "Are we going to hold our own chuunin exam?"
"Not possible," Kakashi sighed. "None of the other ninja villages would recognize it if we did. However, Konoha isn't the only nation that hosts a chuunin exam. Over the past six weeks, I have been requesting access to the other two major centers which hold a chuunin exam. Today, I recieved my only reply. In ten days, the Cloud are sponsoring their own exam -- they recognize Blossom as a seperate entity from Konoha. They will not allow Konoha to participate in their exam, and have not for almost seventy years, just as Konoha has forbidden them from participating since they attempted to assassinate the First... but they have agreed to, as a first-time entry village, allow us to enter one team in their exam as if we were a true neutral power. That team will be under heavy escort whenever practical, but outside of that may have the same access that any other neutral power participating in the chuunin exam has."
That brought everyone to attention -- especially Ebisu and Aoba, who both had been around when the Cloud and Konoha were a step away from war more than once, and Hanabi, whose clan had more bad dealings with the Cloud then any other. Immediately, she stood up. "As a Hyuuga, I... I would have to withdraw from any such exam," she said. "They have already framed my father -- necessitating the execution of my uncle -- in order to obtain out clan's secrets. It would not be wise for me to give them another such opportunity."
Futaba gaped at her teammate. "Hanabi-chan! But...."
"It is your decision, Hanabi-san," Kakashi said, nodding to the girl. "And that is a sound reason. However, it may be some time before a different test would become available for you to take."
Hanabi swallowed. "Even if I have to remain a genin forever... I will not allow the secrets of my clan to fall into the Cloud's hands."
Naruto raised an eyebrow, considering her for a moment, before turning back to Kakashi. "So, how are we going to decide which team goes and which doesn't?"
"That will be your job," Kakashi explained. "I'm putting this whole mess in your lap. It will be your job to figure out which three of the nine genin we have go to this chuunin exam. Remember how important both teamwork and individual performance is in it. It will be up to you whether you send in a complete team as it is or you mix and match. Then, since I'll have more need of you here then in Cloud, it will be your job to determine which jounin instructor will be leading them -- and please remember the job of the jounin instructor will not be to fight, but to train. The best teacher of these jounin may not necessarily be the best fighter."
Naruto huffed. "Yeah, yeah, I know all that."
"You say you 'know all that,' now, but you haven't always," Kakashi pointed out. "I seem to recall you being very upset that I wouldn't teach you, at one time. The truth is I suck as a teacher when it comes to advanced training -- one of the reasons I was concentrating on Sasuke that time was that his sharingan would allow him to learn from me at a reasonable pace. I arranged for a better teacher to train you... even if that teacher isn't my equal in combat."
Ebisu shifted uncomfortably, but nodded his head in acknowledgement. Naruto, however, just shrugged. "Yeah, I figured that out after a while. Ero-sennin is a powerful ninja, but he's been pretty crappy about giving me enough instruction to master the techniques he gives me. I spent probably half my training trip with him just learning how to fix the holes in his lessons. Although if I'd stuck with the closet pervert, I might have learned more but I never would have been able to beat Gaara."
"Yeah, you would have, Naruto-kun," Sakura whispered to him.
Naruto shifted slightly, not entirely comfortable with his own thought on the matter. "I might have," he whispered back. "But the only other way I could have would have been to use the hokage no jutsu."
Sakura winced, and decided not to pursue that topic any more.
Kakashi decided after a minute that he'd given everyone enough time to talk about his news and decided to end it. "Are there any more questions?"
"Yeah," Naruto said. "How long do we have?"
"Well, the test begins in ten days," Kakashi calculated, rubbing his mask-covered chin in thought. "But Cloud is actually much closer to us then Blossom, so any team would be able to make in in two days. They would want at least one day to rest, however, so everything should be decided in no more then one week's time. Is that sufficient?"
"I'll make it work, somehow," Naruto replied with determination.
"Any other questions?"
"Yeah. Are we going to continue running missions while this is going on?" Aoba asked.
"The jounin trackers who joined me in Operation Pursue Sasuke have remained here to pick up some of the slack while this process is ongoing. This will free up the genin teams for the next week while still maintaining a portion of our usual income. They will also be substituting for Sakura, Naruto, and Ino's teaching positions in the Academy, and filling in for some other duties as well. Once the exam is complete, those jounin will be returning to Konoha, but in the meantime we could actually handle higher-rated missions then normal. Anything else?"
Naruto frowned. "Yeah," he said. "What is Cloud getting out of this?"
Kakashi sighed. "Our charter indicates that Blossom will accept applications for genin teams to join us from any nation not on hostile terms with Konoha. Cloud has recently signed various treaties of neutrality, and therefore they desire to test this charter by requiring that, when we expand the number of genin teams as we plan to do following the Academy graduation, we accept one of theirs."
"I don't think that's a good idea," Naruto said. "I wouldn't have accepted that condition."
"Oh?" Kakashi replied, raising an eyebrow curiously. "And what would you have done, instead?"
"Something other than compromise our security," came the heated reply. "Perhaps I would have seen if Sand Country would be willing to judge a private chuunin exam for us. Or I would have negotiated a different deal."
"Well," Kakashi said, leaning back in his chair. "What's done is done. While your ideas might have worked, they might not have... and, at the very least, you would have missed this opportunity for sending participants to a chuunin exam. I've already made an agreement with the Cloud, and it is too late to go back on it."
Naruto was about to let his temper go and start arguing with the silver-haired ninja, but Sakura sensed it coming before he could. She used her position to reach out and sooth him, saying, "Relax, Naruto-kun. Remember, you aren't in charge, now... this is Kakashi-sensei's command. You might disagree with him, but you've already made your point and he's rejected your arguments, so it is our job to make sure that his decisions -- whether they are mistakes or not -- work."
He turned his attention to her. "But--"
"No buts," she said.
Naruto looked frustrated, but in the end nodded. He sat there, relaxing with Sakura in his arms, and sighed.
"Now," Kakashi said. "Are there any other questions, or can we finally wrap this up?"
* * * * *
Blossom's three chuunin were having dinner together in Naruto's apartment -- theoretically to discuss the plans for the next chuunin exam. It was turning out quite different, however.
"Well," Ino said, nibbling from her bowl of ramen. It was a home-made ramen, complete with fresh ingredients, and not an instant... which meant it was actually pretty good. "I haven't seen much of you two since... well, since your birthday party, Sakura-chan."
"We have all been pretty busy," Sakura admitted. "First, there was the war. Then you had that ambassadorial mission which kept you busy all of last month. Then... well, there were a lot of people who didn't quite realize that Naruto-kun wasn't the one in charge any more, and I've been 'playing secretary' for a while. I think in a democracy, Naruto would be elected over Kakashi, at least hear in Blossom."
"I've heard a lot of people -- some of them recalling even his time in Konoha -- who say he's a terrible leader," Ino replied. "They point to the fact that he'd lost his original teammates within a couple months of taking command of them, then he struggled in ANBU -- although like with every other ANBU agent his past there is classified -- and then... well, there was the whole thing with Sasuke leaving us -- some people blame him for that. In all honesty, I haven't been too impressed either way with how he's handled me since I joined your team. Those rumors have been compounded by his poor leadership here, where he'd successfully driven us into the financial ground until Naruto-dono took charge, to the point where I've heard a few people muttering about having him 'sent away on another long mission.' But let's not talk about that now -- politics, especially when it involves people you know personally, can get rather depressing."
Sakura frowned. She wanted to refute everything Ino was saying about her teacher, but... but she couldn't think of a since reply. Oh, sure, the Sasuke thing wasn't his fault, but the other points... well, she really didn't know enough about Kakashi's past to comment. And... well, he'd always basically ignored her, too, while she was under his command. All she needed to think of to know that was how under-prepared she was for the chuunin exam compared to just about every other ninja out there. Her teammates were, too, but at least they had been strong enough to fight through it... or at least, they had until Orochimaru showed up. Sasuke was essentially crippled by that attack, and Naruto... well, she'd learned from Jiraiya, while talking with him about her new seal, that Naruto's chakra had been messed up during that period. Not that she'd noticed it at all, considering how remarkable his endurance had been and how well he'd dealt with Kiba. Although he was rather slow in getting out his trademark shadow clones during the Kiba fight, now that she thought about it -- he'd always been able to pull them out in a flash, before and since.
Something occured to Sakura right then. Kakashi was qualified to be a hokage. He had the thousand techniques -- and then some, considering how many things he must have copied with his sharingan in the years following the official notice of that distinction. After the death of the Third, he was debatably the strongest ninja in Konoha outside of the rather unreliable Jiraiya. He was a legend, in his own right, and his IQ tests matched Shikamaru's, from what she'd heard. He'd had a lot of command experience, and was the perfect candidate to fill the void the Third left behind following his unexpected murder. Yet... Kakashi had not been asked. The rather unreliable Jiraiya, a known pervert and hermit, was asked instead. When Jiraiya had turned them down, he had been told that there was no-one else in Konoha who could do the job. But... why had niether the council nor the advisors thought to ask Kakashi? Could it be that he really did have a reputation for bad leadership? If so... how much of that 'bad leadership' trait was responsible for him mangling his attempts to 'provoke' Naruto?
She shook her head to clear her thoughts and sighed. "You're right, Ino-chan. Thinking about it so much does get rather depressing."
"I think we need to catch up, a bit," Ino pointed out.
Sakura, knowing full well what the other girl was talking about, reached up and stroked her hair jokingly. "Oh, I know. I really need to get a haircut, don't I?"
"Actually, I like it this length," Naruto replied, seeing an opportunity to interject himself into the conversation so that he wouldn't feel quite so much like a third wheel. "Not too much longer, though, or you might have problems with people pulling your hair in a fight."
She glanced at Naruto in surprise, saying, "You do? I think it looks a little rough when it's this long."
"Wild, not rough," Naruto corrected, grinning fiercely. "I like you looking wild."
Something inside her tingled at the notion of her being 'wild.' "Hmm... wild, huh?"
Ino coughed, reminding the two of them that she was at the table, as well. "You guys can flirt later. You know I wasn't talking about your hair, Sakura-chan."
"You weren't?" Sakura replied, feigning innocence. "Well, if it wasn't my 'wild' hairstyle, then what could you possibly be referring to?"
Ino sighed dramatically. "Look, forehead girl, we both know what I'm talking about, so spill. I know where I've seen that seal you've been flashing around town before, and I also know that the only person who should have it is Naruto-dono, here. So, where did it come from?"
"From Naruto-kun," Sakura replied, keeping up the facade.
"Look, you," Ino fumed. "I've been really nice to you for quite a while -- I haven't even once teased you about having gotten engaged, have I? I don't deserve the runaround."
Sakura laughed, but did look apologetic. "Sorry, Ino-chan. You're right -- you have been especially kind lately. Makes me wonder what you're setting me up for, actually."
Ino shrugged. "I think I'm just tired of all the games. We don't see as much of each other, any more, now that you're living with Naruto-dono again, and I'm just trying to keep the time we do spend together... civil enough for us not to lose any more of our time together squabbling like children."
In other words, Ino-chan, we're growing up and we need to start acting like adults, huh? Sakura mused silently. "If we learn how to stop before we go too far, then I don't think there's anything wrong with the two of us teasing each other. After all, that is such a huge part of our past, I don't see it just going away...."
Ino grinned. "Perhaps not. But I'm not in the mood to be teased right now -- I want to know just what happened to give you that... uh, interesting design on your stomach, instead."
Sighing, Sakura decided to explain. "The seal was damaged when Naruto performed a kinjutsu during the Rainbow War. There was no risk of kyuubi escaping, but... well, it was sort of like 'internal bleeding' with his chakra system. The seal had to be patched up, but the only way to do it was to have a second person 'linked' to the seal. The damage has been fixed, now, and that kinjutsu shouldn't be a kinjutsu any more now that a permanent 'fix' has been made... although he's limited in using it only when I'm close by. The technique is a mid-combat teleportation technique, and now he can only use it to transport himself within a hundred yards of my location."
"Well, wouldn't that mean that, if you were even miles apart, he could use this technique to come to your side at a moment's notice?" Ino asked, puzzling it out.
"If she's out of my line of sight, I'd need some sort of beacon, but yeah... I suppose I could," Naruto interjected. "I haven't tried, yet, though."
"Well, that's enough shop-talk about this," Ino sighed, shaking her head. "But I want to know more about what it's like."
"I like 'shop-talk.' And aren't we supposed to be discussing the chuunin exam?" Naruto asked plaintively. He wasn't exactly all that enthusiastic about starting that rather boring project, but this girl talk was boring him.
"Well, it's not really 'like' anything special, I suppose," Sakura mused, ignoring him. "I've got a lot more chakra, but I haven't learned how to access it consistantly yet."
Ino frowned. "That's it? You can't read each other's minds, or know where each other are even in the dark, or anything like that?"
Sakura and Naruto glanced at each other in surprise. "Well, no... not that we've noticed," the pink haired girl replied.
"We can both talk to the kyuubi," Naruto pointed out, surprised he hadn't even thought about it. It made him wonder just what else he might not have thought of. "Maybe we could have him deliver messages for us, although I doubt he'd be very willing to help out that way."
Sakura laughed. "No, I don't think he'd like being a 'messenger boy' for us. Maybe in an emergency he would, though."
Ino frowned. "I don't exactly recall the kyuubi as being that friendly. Why would he be willing to protect the two of you?"
"Well, there's always self-preservation," Sakura pointed out. "If one of us dies... he does, too."
"True," Ino admitted, although she still got the feeling she was missing out on something. "At any rate, what you're saying is... you haven't really tried to see what this lets you do at all?"
Sakura blushed. "Well, I've been a bit busy, you know, and there are other things about this seal I'd rather learn, first...."
"Guys?" Naruto broke in. If there was one thing he'd rather not talk about, it was just how the kyuubi could effect Sakura. He'd been nervous enough about her taking on the responsibility -- and the disrespect others would heap upon her -- that containing the demon inside of her would bring. The question of what other changes her decision would cost her was definitely not one he felt comfortable discussing so casually. "This is kind of fun after all, but... is there any chance we could take care of business tonight? If not, I'll just leave you two to catch up."
Ino winced. The little bit of Naruto inside her finally made known just how uncomfortable it was, as well. She could only imagine how the real Naruto -- who had the full return of Sakura's love, finally -- would feel. "Er... right. Maybe we should take care of business first."
Sakura blinked, then shrugged. "If you want, sure. I'm not really sure what we could do... although maybe we should hold a mock exam of sorts."
Ino shuddered. "Sakura-chan... surely you remember just how bad our chuunin exam went, right? Would you really like to have to do that twice? In a row? I sure wouldn't, even if it was a 'scaled down' version of the test."
"Well... maybe that would be a bit much," Sakura agreed, remembering just how painful the exam was for her and all of her friends. "Maybe just something which would help us evaluate their talent."
"A tournament," Naruto declared. "We can't explain the written part of the exam to them, and the survival test isn't practical considering we don't have anywhere to hold it that would be even remotely close to preparation for the test. But we can evaluate their one-on-one combat skills, and decide from that who is the best prepared."
"Combat skills alone are nothing," Sakura sighed. "Otherwise, I don't think any of the people who made it to the preliminary matches of our chuunin exam would have been held back, despite the exam being interrupted before the end."
"So... we'll get the jounin instructors in on things," Ino suggested. "Hana, Aoba, and Ebisu should all know their students pretty well. We'd ask for their recommendations, just as the hokage does in Konoha, and work from there."
"I know a number of them pretty well, myself," Naruto pointed out. "But yeah, I think they'd be useful."
Sakura shrugged. "Well... I guess that might work. They could be allowed to plead the case of their students. So, since we've only got about a week to do this all in, when should we have the tournament?"
"As soon as possible, of course," Ino replied. "They need to get there and have time to settle in, so as soon as possible."
Naruto frowned. "Uh, actually... I'd like a couple days, first."
"I just do," Naruto answered, avoiding the question.
Ino looked at him funny. She asked the Naruto inside of her just why he would need that extra time, but no answer was forthcoming. "I'd like to know before I agree with that. Why?"
He hesitated. "I need to work with one of the genin, first. Nothing that concerns you."
"Is it Konohamaru?" Ino asked. "You really shouldn't play favorites, here. You know that."
"No, it isn't him," Naruto replied. "He's got a good trainer, already. I'd slow him down."
"Hey," Sakura protested. "You're an excellent teacher -- I've learned a lot from you, already."
"Oh, I could teach him," Naruto agreed. "I'm better then ero-sennin... and definitely better then Kakashi-sensei, when it comes to teaching. They'll admit as much. But the closet pervert specializes in teaching, and I couldn't put my full time into it like I should. No, Konohamaru doesn't need my help."
"Then who are you teaching?" Ino asked.
"Probably no-one," Naruto sighed. "Look, Ino-chan... just drop it, okay?"
"Naruto-kun," Sakura intervened. "Why won't you tell us?"
"Because I haven't talked to them yet," he explained. "And they may want this kept secret."
"Okay," Sakura said. "I guess we'd better let you have your two days."
"But--" Ino protested.
"Ino-chan," Sakura said, turning to her oldest friend. "When Naruto was running this village... if he had said he needed to keep his reason for asking you to do something secret, wouldn't you still have done it?"
Ino blinked. "Uh... yeah. I guess so."
"That settles it, then," Sakura replied, grinning. "Naruto-kun is our leader, whether that's because he has the job or he doesn't. So, if he says it has to be kept secret for now, I'll trust him. What about you?"
There was a long pause before her answer finally came. "Two days it is, then."
* * * * *
Notes: Yeah, I'm late, and yeah, the last bit is crap. Too much forced dialogue, not enough action, I know, I know. And I fully expect a flood of angry e-mails from Kakashi fans for the 'he's a poor leader and a poor teacher' cracks I've made against him, but remember that's all perception. His own perception, perhaps, when it comes to teaching -- in canon, he pawns Naruto off on Ebisu and claims that Ebisu is a better teacher -- and seemingly believes it himself -- so we know he doesn't think he's the best. That's a far cry from saying he's terrible at it, I know, but considering how improved Sakura became under a different teacher, and how improved Naruto became under Jiraiya (even just in Part One), I don't think it's too much of a stretch. It could be one of the reasons he's chased students off every time he's been offered them, before. As far as being a bad leader goes... well, that's just a rumor, remember. There's a lot of evidence to back it up, yes, but... it isn't necessarily true (for that, I'll leave it up to you guys to decide). It's just how I figured the result of a village dealing with a changeover from a popular leader to somone who wasn't necessarily the most effective executive in their experience (given the budget crisis they faced) would act: 'Oh, we were lead so much better when Naruto was in charge.' 'I know. He's terrible at the job! I heard he lost his whole team his first mission as a jounin!' 'Really? I heard he left ANBU, once. I bet it was because he couldn't deal with the leadership role.' And so forth. Not necessarily true, but bad enough that they've reached the ears of certain people who actually work with them... who might be at a loss to explain just why they disagree, since they have no evidence to back themselves up. In other words, it's politics, it ain't fact. Next Chapter: Naruto approaches one of the genin about the tournament. Possibly I'll get to the start of the tournament, too -- we'll see how long it takes to get things organized.