Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 30 ( Chapter 40 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: Those of you who were saying I was too hard on myself for the last chapter, um... sorry, but I still view it as the worst chapter I've written for this fic, so far. For one thing, I blew the scene where Kakashi is reacting to Sakura sitting in Naruto's lap. I forgot a few words which changed the meaning slightly (obviously, he KNEW they'd become that close -- Sakura wouldn't have been QUITE so angry at him, otherwise; what I'd meant for him to say was that he just hadn't gotten used to it, yet). I was just trying, really, to indicate that he hadn't seen much of them in the six weeks since he left the hospital. I wound up saying something completely different -- that he'd been oblivious to their growing feelings. Truth be told, I've been working through a bit of writers block, lately, which means I'm forcing some of my writing... which also means that I'll feel its crap, and it may or may not be crap, but it'll distract me regardless. So, I'll make little mistakes like that. Maybe I'll go back and try to fix it when this fic is completed, but in the meantime just realize that I may have to make minor corrections to previous chapters in authors notes. As I have once or twice in the past, if something is in serious need of revision and can be accomplished easily enough that it won't disrupt the continued writing, I'll try and fix it and just note that a correction has been made in the next chapter, but it's rare I think I can make such a correction without breaking my writing. I had a lot of people encouraging me not to get too worked up about all the silly flamers who have been attacking me these last couple of chapters. Thanks, but I'm not too worried about them. I also enjoyed the encouragement about 'Golden Flash vs. Yellow Flash,' although I said that was my last word on the subject last chapter. I may re-re-consider and go with my original decision of 'Golden Flash,' after all, but I won't comment again either way until the next chapter I have to write about him. That won't be for quite a while, so by then things may have settled down. If there are people still very attached to the literal translation, go ahead and make your case... but please, take in mind the comments made both by myself and by the reviewers of the previous chapter (39, or volume 3 chapter 29 if you go by title) about the debate, first, okay? (In other words, read the reviews and my notes first before commenting, so that you don't repeat something already said or already countered). Well, I guess that's that. On with the fic....
Chapter 30
"What are you thinking, not taking the chuunin exam?"
"I told you," Hanabi sighed. "It's in Cloud country, and my clan is hostile to Cloud country. They would kill me just to steal my eyes, if I went there -- just as they killed my uncle."
"Don't you want the promotion? I'm sure that Cloud wouldn't be able to attack you publically -- they have to know it would lead to a war with Konoha. As long as you were careful enough to avoid their trickery, I think you'd be okay."
"It's not that simple," the girl sighed. "The last time a Hyuuga was inside of Cloud, our clan was framed for a murder. The only way out of starting a war, then, was to sacrifice my uncle to them. He had to kill himself because they framed us, so... it isn't wise for us to go into their country unless... unless Konoha ever decides it wants to go to war with them."
"Which would probably be never, regardless of the provocation, given what I've heard about them. I mean, we haven't even launched a war against the Sound, and they killed off the hokage!"
"Er... technically, we are at war with the sound. We just never launched an invasion," Hanabi pointed out.
"Oh, yeah? When was the last time the two countries fought a battle with each other?"
"Just under three years ago."
"And nothing has been done, since, has it? Not by either side. Now, isn't that an odd form of warfare? Why are we just sitting back, letting Orochimaru plan and prepare himself to strike at Konoha again, huh? That has to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard of...."
"Konoha is not in the business of revenge," Hanabi lectured. "At least... not officially. That is just the excuse we give other countries, to maintain our reputation as the most powerful of the five kage-level countries. I agree, it does seem pretty silly to just let him alone, if that was what we were doing... but you have to realize that there was no way to launch a counterattack, then. In order to organize a large enough force to really fight the Sound on their home turf, we would have had to leave our flank exposed to others... like, say, the Cloud, who would have been very happy to swoop in and wipe out a defenseless Konoha. The Sand had taken the brunt of the losses during the Sand-Sound war, and weren't really in any better shape then we were... not to mention there was no way we could have trusted them to stay our ally after their initial betrayal. The situation may be... remotely better, now, but the internal politics of both Sand and Konoha are such that we can't exactly mount a large expeditionary force of the size needed to fight the Sound and not leave ourselves open to attack. But you know all this, right? I mean... surely Haruno-san has given you all the political lectures you need by now, right, Inari-chan?"
The boy grinned bitterly. "Yeah, yeah. I've heard it all. Still seems pretty sucky to me -- as near as I can tell, you guys aren't even keeping Orochimaru under surveillance, are you? Haruno-sensei doesn't think so, anyway, from what she was saying about how bad our intelligence has been against the Sound. Of course, I suppose you could have really good spies, after all, and just not want to let us Academy students know -- that would be smart -- but Konoha sure is doing everything in its power to seem pretty stupid in its dealings with the Sound."
"That's why I don't think I should even consider attempting the chuunin exam," Hanabi explained. "I think the Sound are a big enough threat that Konoha couldn't risk war, even if I was killed by the Cloud so blatantly. I think the Cloud know this, too, and so wouldn't be all that concerned about appearances... they'd just go ahead and kill me right out."
"Naruto-sensei wouldn't let them get away with it," Inari stated firmly. "If Konoha would hold back, I'm sure he would take Blossom into war with them."
Hanabi shook her head, sighing. "Inari-chan... Naruto-san couldn't do it. He's not in charge of Blossom any more -- in fact, I outrank him in the chain of command, now, although only on a technicality. And even if he could... really, what could Blossom do? We're only a couple dozen ninja in a start-up village, after all. Why would any kage-level power worry about us?"
"Naruto-kun took out the Grass single-handedly!" Inari pointed out. "He'd avenge you, I'm sure of it."
"I'm sure I'd appreciate that, too, after I was dead," Hanabi commented dryly. When the boy winced, she softened her tone slightly. "He won't have to, though, because I'm not going. If I don't go, they can't kill me, and he won't have to 'avenge me' after all."
"You shouldn't be stuck as a genin, though," Inari sighed, looking downcast. "Maybe if you went in disguise, though... how long can you hold a henge?"
Hanabi blushed. "I, um, can't. At all. I never learned that technique -- my father taught me all of my ninjitsu. The only technique I ever bothered studying at the Academy back home was the bushin, since that was required for the equivalency exam I took to become a ninja. I got exceptions for all the other requirements, though, because I was going the 'alternate path' of my clan's school."
Inari gaped for a moment before shaking his head. "Damn. So I actually know something better then you, huh? Well... we've got a couple days. I could teach you the henge, I'm sure of it."
"I might like to learn it," Hanabi admitted. "I'm starting to realize that my clan might not be quite as perfect as I'd always believed, and so maybe I'm not as good of a fighter knowing just the family techniques... but even if I learn it, that won't help me. Even Naruto-san wouldn't be able to hold his varient of the henge the entire length of the chuunin exam, which I've heard can take as long as a month and a half."
"Well, there goes that idea," Inari sighed. Then he grinned. "You know, there's another option to the henge. Naruto-sensei always talks about how hard he had it, learning ninjitsu techniques. His own teachers never even tried to teach him anything -- not until he save Iruka-sensei's life, that is, and that was just a few days before he graduated. He had to figure everything out from scratch, for the most part... and sometimes, he got the technique completely wrong. He didn't always get the wrong effect, however."
Hanabi frowned. "A varient of the henge? But that would have the same problem as the henge itself, wouldn't it? Unlike our 'junior hokage,' as I've started hearing a few of us from Konoha call him, some of us have a merely finite supply of chakra, and any constant drain would easily be exhausted well before the end of a full month and a half."
"No, not a henge varient," Inari explained. "A... well, consider it the taijutsu form of the henge. How would you like to learn the fine art of basic disguise?"
"And just how could I go in disguise?" Hanabi snorted. "I have a few traits that kind of mark me as a Hyuuga, you know."
"Ever hear of contact lenses?" Inari suggested. "Your eyes don't have to stop you from hiding yourself, you know."
Hanabi considered his idea. She was very tempted -- she definitely wanted to become a chuunin, and it was disappointing to her that she couldn't do so until some alternative to the Cloud test could be found -- but she realized the impracticality of it right away. "No... it just wouldn't work. I might be able to hide my appearance, but I know that combat is a part of the test. Just how would I be able to hide my combat training?"
Inari shrugged. "You're supposed to be a martial arts genius, right? So, it shouldn't take you too long to learn henge and kawarimi. Naruto-sensei spent much of our first several classes trying to get through our heads that all a ninja really needs in order to be effective are those three techniques -- everything else may make us stronger or better, but if we're smart we shouldn't need anything else. You could learn those three things in a week."
"It's enough to do our job, I suppose," Hanabi replied, sighing. "But only if you've got enough taijutsu to support it, because none of those techniques provides any offensive punch. And my taijutsu is... distinctive. Sorry, Inari-chan, but it won't work."
Inari sighed. "Well... how about I try teaching you those three techniques, anyway? I know them pretty well, by now, and... and if you do decide to change your mind, they might become helpful."
Hanabi smiled at the boy slightly. He was always trying, wasn't he? He was a lot like Naruto, in that regard. A few months before would have been a real turn-off for her. But now... "Well... it's not like I've got anything else to do right now."
* * * * *
"Where's Naruto?" Jiraiya asked as Sakura entered the gymnasium for their weekly training session.
"He's busy dealing with something for the upcoming chuunin exam," Sakura replied.
"Fine. Training is cancelled."
"Hey!" Sakura protested. "I need training, too. Probably more than Naruto does -- why won't you train me?"
Jiraiya hesitated. "Well... I guess. No offense, girl, but you fight a bit too much like Tsunade for me to be comfortable teaching you my own techniques, so how about we just spar?"
She grinned. "Saying I fight like Tsunade-shishou is a compliment to me, Jiraiya-sama, not an insult. Sparring it is... although you don't seem to hesitate in teaching me your techniques when Naruto-kun is here."
"That's because I'm teaching Naruto the techniques," Jiraiya pointed out. "I don't mind if you learn them, but teaching them to you, directly... well, my comfort-level is a big part of my teaching. That's why I'm not always the best of teachers -- if I'm not comfortable doing the job, I'm pretty bad at it. But I can spar with you, at least."
Sakura took a taunting stance. "Let's go, then, shall we?"
Shaking his head, Jiraiya matched her and stared down. "Begin," he called.
Sakura leapt up, a kunai suddenly in her hand. Rebounding off of the cieling, she aimed her dive to land on top of the legendary ninja, who just barely rolled out of the way in time. She followed it up with and upside down roundhouse kick that doubled as a kippup to right herself following the dive. Her kunai left her hand to prevent him from dodging in one direction, forcing him back against a wall. She threw a final punch which almost connected, but she had to pull back to avoid the razor-sharp spikes growing into his hair.
Jiraiya's counter-attacks were surprisingly clumsy and easily avoided... until she realized she was being lead into the opposite corner she had forced him. Well, perhaps it was time for her to use the first of the new kyuubi-based techniques Naruto had taught her.
She opened her mouth and shouted. Whatever she said wasn't exactly decipherable, as it wasn't in any human language, but she was calling a technique. The technique, translated, might have been called 'voice of rage,' but not even Sakura would have known that, for she was growling fox-language. Her shout carried with it an arcing wave of red chakra, blasting Jiraiya back several feet and knocking him to the ground.
"Uh," he called, slowly sitting up. "I think that's enough for today."
"But we were just getting started!" Sakura protested. "I've got three or four new techniques I'd like to try in sparring, thanks to Naruto-kun, and that was just one of them. Why won't you fight me?"
"Well, to be honest I'm a little hung over," Jiraiya whimpered. "And that blast just gave me the mother of all headaches. If this were a life or death situation, I wouldn't have a problem with fighting you as I am, but... well, I don't want to be sick."
Sakura sighed. "All right, go on. I guess I'll work on things alone for a while."
"Good. Next week you'll be training with Anko-chan, but I think she plans to just spar, too. Maybe you'll be able to try your new techniques, then," Jiraiya said, staggering to his feet. "See you around."
Sakura watched him go, considering his words. He didn't seem hung-over... rather, he seemed tired. Very tired. The energy he usually had, which sometimes matched Naruto in its intensity, seemed almost entirely gone. What was going on? Was he hiding something more serious, or was he really just overindulging in drink? Maybe it was time she started demanding everyone undergo physicals. It was time to put her position as the hospital administrator to some good use.
* * * * *
Hanabi was walking home after dark. It had been a long day -- learning the henge was embarrasingly hard for her, considering it was a technique most children knew before they even entered the Academy back in Konoha, and then he'd started her in on the kawarimi. True, they didn't take too long to get the basics down for, since she had all the background in chakra control and molding which the Academy often spent months teaching, but she'd come out with some pretty stupid-looking transformations before she finally started getting it pretty close to correct.
An overwhelming sense of danger suddenly filled her. With a quick movement, she dove to her right to avoid a series of kunai that were headed right for her. She didn't have time to look for her attackers -- or even activate the byakugan -- before she had to dodge again. A kick, this time, but it was dark and she couldn't see the person through their black clothes. Another kunai followed the kick, causing her to jump back into what appeared to be a tripwire, sending another dozen or so shuriken at her. She leapt up as fast as she could, but another kunai was thrown in front of her. The kunai had an explosive tag, knocking her away even though she had managed to avoid all contact with it. With a crash, she slammed into the concrete wall of one of the houses lining her path. Finally, she caught sight of her attacker.
"Just what the hell do you think you're doing!" she fumed angrilly. "I could have been killed!"
"No, you couldn't have," her attacker pointed out. "Those were wooden shuriken."
Hanabi blinked, taking a closer look at the weapons. Yes, they were all made out of wood. There was some sort of metallic paint covering them to make them look like their usual steel construction, but that paint was chipped in enough places that the wood became obvious upon closer inspection. "Still," she growled. "What's the big idea?"
"I just wanted to prove something to you. That you can fight without the byakugan. You didn't activate it once during our little battle, there."
"So... I think you should take the chuunin exam. And I wanted to prove to you that you could."
Hanabi sighed. "It's more then my byakugan which keeps me from joining that tournament, Naruto-san. I can't risk it."
Naruto grinned slightly, stepping over to the girl. "Well, I'd agree that you can't risk combat. All this was, for me, was a test to see if you would instinctively activate the byakugan if you were attacked... and you didn't. All we need to do is slip a disguise over you, maybe some colored contact lenses, and I think it would be safe enough for you to go into Cloud country for the exam."
"But... you just said I can't risk combat," Hanabi shot back, confused. "So what good will that do? Or does Cloud not have a tournament in their exam?"
"Oh, they have a tournament, all right," Naruto admitted. "But you won't have to participate in it."
Her eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
Naruto sighed. "Come with me," he replied, gesturing for her to follow him. With a shrug, Hanabi joined him as he leapt up to the rooftops, jumping from building to building until they arrived near the Administrative Building where she worked. Finally, he lead her into an odd room which had no way of being accessed other then from the rooftop. Inside, there was a table, a few chairs, and little else.
"Where are we?" she asked in surprise.
"A Plan B room, as it's called," he explained. "Remember the counterattack plans for invasion in Konoha?"
"Oh, it's for an evacuation," she said.
"Well, this one is actually supposed to be command and control," Naruto explained. "It wouldn't really be safe to be evacuated here if you were a civilian, but it would be a decent place for the administration to hide until it was time to counterattack."
Hanabi looked around. "A bit sparse, isn't it?"
"We haven't had the budget to fix it up properly, yet," Naruto sighed. "But that's not why I brought you here. I need to discuss certain things about Blossom's state of affairs, first."
Hanabi blinked. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"A lot," Naruto replied. "Blossom is in desperate need of more higher-ranked ninja. The original plans called for Konoha to slowly poor in a few more people at a time, so that by the end of five years we would be able to accept A rank missions if necessary... but those plans have changed."
Hanabi understood immediately. "Let me guess -- my clan's screwed everything up, right?"
"Yep," Naruto answered truthfully, not usually one to mince words... unless he was dealing with Sakura. "The civil war your clan is fighting had forced the old hag to tell us that we have to fend for ourselves, save for the very occasional bit of temporary help like Kakashi's five jounin. She has said something about maybe providing us with another medi-nin to take over for Sakura-chan, allowing her to move into another position, but even that's up in the air. Which means we're going to have to add more chuunin and jounin from the people here, now. Which means we are in desperate need for three genin to pass the chuunin exam, which would permit us to expand the number of teams we have by three once the rookie class in our Academy graduates. As it is, Ino-chan, Sakura-chan, and I have been pulling triple duty since we got here."
Hanabi nodded slowly. "I think I understand. But I don't see how that effects me -- you can always find another genin instead of me to take the test, and even if you couldn't... well, how could I pass if I only take the written test?"
"You aren't going to," Naruto explained. "Look, I've never had a family. If I were to take the people closest to me and give them roles, well, Iruka-sensei would be my older brother, the puppy lady would be my older sister, puppy girl my younger sister, and Kakashi-sensei... well, between he, the retired chef for the Ichiraku back in Konoha, and ero-sennin, I feel like I have a trio of parents. No mother, but plenty of fathers... or maybe a father, an uncle, and a grandfather. But Kakashi-sensei... well, as much of a family member as he is, I can't let him get away with this plan of his. We can't allow the Cloud to bring in teams to our village until we're strong enough to stand up for ourselves. But we do need chuunin. So... that leaves us with a few options."
Hanabi was intrigued. "Naruto-san... you aren't planning to launch a coup, are you?"
His eyes widened. "Me? Are you kidding? No, nothing like that! I... I... Kakashi-sensei would never forgive me! Niether would the old hag, and I definitely would lose my chance at being hokage, some day. Nothing like that!"
"Then what are you proposing?" Hanabi asked, curious.
"Well..." he began reluctantly. "I've got some... sources, you might call them, inside the Administrative building. They can get me a few things if I ask them to... things like the copy of the treaty Kakashi-sensei signed with the Cloud. I know exactly what the deal is... and what it would take to break us out of it. To start with, it's no secret that the chuunin exam is a three part test... and that the first part is always a written exam. Once you get through the first part, well, options other then taking a second chuunin exam open to you. The treaty says that we are only obligated to accept their teams as Kakashi-sensei described if our students make it into the second part of the exam. So... I'm going to ask the three genin we send in for the test to intentionally fail that first part... or, if they don't let you do that, leave before the second part starts. If that happens, you three have completed the chuunin requirements... and we aren't obligated to follow that disastrous treaty Kakashi-sensei has signed. Do you see where I'm going with this?"
"Yeah..." Hanabi said slowly. "Okay, that would work for the first exam... but in six months, what are we going to do? I mean, you aren't going to force us to have one and only one chuunin exam, are you?"
"No," Naruto agreed. "I'm pretty sure this will ruin any chances for our genin to take the test in Cloud, in the future. The thing is, however, there are other sites to take the test. The major ones are in Konoha, Cloud, and Rock... but there are a few minor locations, as well. There's one that travels from smaller village to smaller village -- and, in about seven months, they'll be in Waterfall country. They accept anybody. They aren't as... reputable, as the three major locations are, but they should be adequate for our purposes... and they pass a significantly higher percentage of chuunin."
Hanabi sighed, and nodded. "Okay. I understand all of that. But why send me to take the test in Cloud, and not have me wait the seven months for Waterfall's exam?"
"Simple," Naruto replied. "Hanabi-chan, you still have a lot to learn -- I don't think even you will deny that, after the way you were letting Inari-chan teach you basic techniques earlier today."
"You were spying on us?" she cried, outraged.
He shrugged. "Hey, I needed to talk with you about this. I saw him doing it for me, and figured he might have a shot, first... and then, when I heard about your concerns regarding your fighting style, I had to figure out how to test you and see if those concerns were at all legitimate."
She flushed. "Then you saw..."
"Yeah, that henge of me was pretty funny!" Naruto chuckled. "You should have seen the ones I did of the Third, when I was still trying to learn the technique. They were much worse, trust me! Don't worry -- you got it down fast enough. Of course, I taught Konohamaru-chan to do it in about half the time, but Inari-chan didn't know what he was doing, really...."
She flushed even deeper. "You mean that idiot boy learned this thing faster then I did?"
"Hey! He's the son of the Third, and he isn't an idiot! He's just a little immature, that's all," Naruto protested. "I was the same way, when I was his age... only I was worse."
Hanabi looked at him darkly. "Your point?"
Naruto blinked for a few seconds before laughing. "I left myself wide open for that one, didn't I?"
"Yes," Hanabi agreed. "You did. Now... what was this about me having a lot to learn?"
"Oh, right," he answered. "Look, Hanabi-chan... you may have a lot to learn, but you're still the best of the genin we have. You and Konohamaru-chan are the only two genin I know can handle the promotion before I even see you take the test. I hope to find at least one more in the tournament, as well, but we need a minimum of three. I'm not sure we could find two others in the tournament, so... I really need you to take the test."
Hanabi sighed. "Well... I guess I'd better get Inari-chan to start teaching me the 'art of disguise,' too...."
"That's a good girl!" Naruto cheered. "Come on, Hanabi-chan. I'll treat you to some ramen... but then you should get some rest. You've only got one more day to prepare for the pre-exam tournament."
* * * * *
Notes: My writer's block mostly worked itself out in the opening few lines of this chapter, so I guess that's not as much of a concern as it was... I still feel a bit of it, though, so keep that in mind. Next chapter: The tournament begins. It may end, too -- we'll see how long each fight takes.