Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 45 ( Chapter 55 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: If you go to my author page (on ffnet), you'll see a piece of fanart I had requested for this fic and recieved many months ago from an artist whose handle was 'Cambria-chan.' It's sort of a scene from the end of this chapter (or possibly the start of the next) featuring Sakura. Don't peak until you've read the chapter, even though the spoilers in it are very minor. I would gratefully accept any gift fanart, and if I see a particularly appropriate one I am more than willing to cycle it onto my bio page when uploading a chapter.
Chapter 45
Sakura took a deep breath as she stood in front of the double doors leading to Kakashi's office. She had no idea just what to expect in response to her request, but she wanted to make it regardless. Kakashi-sensei may have been getting increasingly erratic in his administration, lately -- Ino's team just being the latest in a long series of bizarre examples regarding his curious decisions. Just to be sure, she had Naruto use his backdoor channels to find out Tsunade's thoughts on that particular decision, but the response proved to be unsatisfying. "Already informed. Will keep an eye on situation," was all that it said. Whatever that was supposed to mean.
Socially, however, he had become a lot more like his old self. He had been making an effort, lately, to repair the tattered bonds with his former students, so perhaps he'd grant her request without question. More likely, however, he would have several questions... and Sakura, while prepared with answers, was a bit uncertain as to whether he would see through them to find her real purpose with all of this. It was, after all, a bit embarrassing to 'arrange' a mission like this one. And if he did guess just why she wanted it... well, who knew how he would react.
Deciding to just bite the bullet and get it over with, she knocked on the door. "Kakashi-sensei? Are you busy?"
"Come on in," he called back.
She schooled her face and her emotions, relying on her overlay persona technique to present the appearance of a calm, collected woman with nothing concerning her, and then opened the door. Stepping through, she saw Anko and Kakashi sharing the office, Anko apparently doing some paperwork. She nodded to the older woman. "Good morning, Anko-chan. I didn't know you were here. Come to think of it, I haven't seen you in a while."
Anko hesitated, then nodded. "I've actually been given a mission straight from Konoha. It's classified, so I can't tell you anything about it -- I can't even tell Kakashi-sensei anything about it -- but... well, it's been keeping me busy."
"I miss our chats, though. Maybe we can do dinner some time soon."
"Yes, well, since you're living with Naruto, I doubt our dinners will be quite as 'private' as they used to be," Anko noted.
"Maybe you will, now," Sakura sighed. "We're both being given missions so often, we rarely get a chance to eat dinner together any more. It's good for us, but... er, it gets a bit difficult sometimes, since we're almost never on the same mission any more." She paused, turning to Kakashi. "In fact, that's partly why I'm here -- for a mission. Kakashi-sensei, my father asked me to deliver this request personally, since it's so unusual and has such a time-sensitive nature."
Kakashi stared at her for a moment. "Let me see the request form," he said.
"Here," Sakura said, handing the paper to him with assumed confidence.
He stared at it for a few seconds, obviously skimming through the details. "Curious," he finally said. "A request for escorts during a set of trade negotiations at the nearby Great Naruto Bridge Village. D-rank mission, yet it requests two specific jounin by name. Odd, this."
Sakura winced mentally, but thanks to her overlay persona it didn't show. "Well, Naruto-kun's and my teams can both handle D-rank missions on their own, but aren't really up to anything more advanced just yet, so we're essentially expendable for short missions such as this one. My father knows the both of us well, and knows we're very highly regarded in that village -- which should improve his negotiations."
"True," Kakashi said. He stared at the paper some more, then sighed. "Very well. I'll accept the mission."
"Thank you very much, Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura replied, very much relieved. Her overlay persona relaxed, allowing her true emotions to surface. "I'll go inform him of your acceptance right away."
Kakashi nodded. "Dismissed." He waited until she was right at the door before he called again, "By the way, Sakura-chan?"
"Yes, Kakashi-sensei?" she replied, turning to face him from the door.
"Next time, consider asking for leave for yourself and your boyfriend to go and celebrate your birthday," he suggested. "I would have granted it, after all, unless there was a crisis, and it would have saved your father a bit of money."
Sakura blushed. "I... I don't know what you're talking about, sensei. My father's mission request was very much legitimate."
"Of course it was, Sakura-chan," Kakashi agreed, ignoring the unconcealed laughter coming from the nearby Anko. "Of course it was."
* * * * *
"Hm... so we're spending your birthday with your father this year?" Naruto asked as Sakura told him of their new mission.
She smirked at him, a twinkle in her eyes. "No. You're spending my birthday with my father -- he didn't really need both of us on this simple of a mission, after all. I'm going around town to treat myself for my birthday... and then, when you're done for the day, my father is going to rent a hotel room and check in for the night, while you head over to the bridge where I'll be waiting for you to take me out to dinner."
Naruto blinked. "Oh. Well, sure -- dinner it is. But why isn't your father coming with us?"
Sakura looked at him pointedly. "Naruto-kun... I know you're a bit naive, sometimes, about a great many things. I also know at least some of that is an act. Now, tell me, are you playing it up this time, or are you really so naive that you don't know why a girl wouldn't want her father on a dinner date with her boyfriend?"
Naruto grinned slightly. "Okay, you got me on that one. Although I wasn't quite sure whether dinner, tonight, would actually qualify as a 'date,' or whether it would be something of a birthday party."
"It's a birthday date," Sakura replied, snickering. "But don't bother bringing that gift for me you've been hiding under your bed this past week. I'll open it when we get back... I have something else in mind for after dinner."
"Well... okay," Naruto replied. "I think your birthday party last year was a more interesting celebration."
Sakura stared at him for a moment, then smiled. "That, I can tell, is the genuine Naruto-kun naivette. Trust me, Naruto-kun... what I have in mind for after dinner is probably a lot more... 'interesting' then a simple party."
* * * * *
Naruto blinked, looking at Sakura's father as he carried the crate full of trade goods from the wagon into the warehouse. "Um, isn't that my job?"
The older man grinned down at him. "I'm not sure my daughter would approve of me tiring you out before her birthday celebration tonight. Besides, you have your training to keep you in shape -- well, carrying these crates is how I exercise, so I'd prefer to do it, myself. You are here to make sure I don't get robbed or cheated while dealing with these traders."
Naruto hesitated. "Um... how am I supposed to do that, Haruno-san?"
If the father of Haruno Sakura realized just what a compliment Naruto had paid him by remembering to use the 'san' honorific, he would have been astonished -- in all of Naruto's life, he'd probably only used it with three people. As it was, the older man merely passed it off as the boy being polite to the father of his fiancee, and that was it. "Just keep an eye on their workers when they load my truck -- make sure no-one sneaks into the packages after I've checked them and takes anything out. And try to look tough while I'm conducting negotiations -- they're much less likely to try and cheat a person when he has armed back-up with him."
Naruto waited as the Haruno patriarch finished unloading his wagon, and then joined him as he began negotiations for payment on the goods. He was rather bored, actually -- this wasn't exactly his kind of mission -- but he supposed there was actually some reason for him to be there other then Sakura wanting to go to this town for her birthday; otherwise, she would have just taken a day off, after all. It wasn't like they didn't have a ton of leave collected that they could take any time they didn't have a high-priority mission scheduled.
His attention was drawn to the words of the shopkeeper, however, when he heard the man say, "Well, the market for the refined steel in your goods isn't that good, right now, so we can't offer you the full amount we used to."
Naruto's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about? The price of refined steel -- especially high grade steel such as the weaponsmiths in ninja villages like Blossom produce -- is higher then ever before. It doesn't matter if it's being made into kitchen knives or swords, we have to use the highest grade steel we can manufacture, and that's selling at record prices."
The shopkeeper, ignoring the look on the blond boy's face, gave a patronizing, "And you are?"
"Uzumaki Naruto. Haruno-san is my... client."
"Uzumaki... Naruto. You don't mean that Uzumaki Naruto, do you? The one the bridge, and this whole town, is named for?" the man replied, suddenly sounding very nervous.
"Um, well," Naruto stammered, blushing.
"Yes, he is," the Haruno man replied. "And he also happens to be dating my daughter."
"Oh." The shopkeeper pulled out a chart, running his finger down the line. "Um, what do you know! You're right -- I must have been looking at the cost of unrefined iron ore, instead. Silly me!"
"But iron ore is at record--"
"I can offer you the full price I used to pay, plus twenty percent. If that's all right with you?" the shopkeeper continued, overriding Naruto's incredulous observation.
"Oh, that's all right," Sakura's father laughed. "I'd feel a bit guilty taking such a price, in fact. Prices have risen, but not that much -- cut that twenty percent in half and I'll be happy."
"Very well," the shopkeeper replied, bowing obsequiously. "Do you want it split as usual -- fifty percent cabinet-grade plywood, twenty percent paint, twenty percent paper, and ten percent manufactured goods?"
"Yes, that sounds satisfactory, thank you. Of course, I'll want to inspect it all before it's loaded on the cart."
"Of course. Let me get right on that, will you?"
As the shopkeeper left, the Haruno patriarch turned an amused eye Naruto's way. "Thank you, Naruto-kun. While I probably would have wound up with that price anyway, you saved me from several hours of rather tedious bartering, there... and while I appreciate that, it was entirely unnecessary. The old man who runs this shop loves to haggle, and will invent many silly lies and rumors to help... but in the end, usually gives a fair price. I should have warned you about that."
"Eh? But wasn't I supposed to keep an eye out to see if he was cheating you or not?"
The older man waved his hand dismissively. "Yes, yes, but that wasn't exactly the point. I just needed the threat of having someone here, looking over things, to keep him acting fairly. While your intervention certainly sped up negotiations, it didn't exactly work to make future negotiations any easier. By adjusting the price to what it would have wound up being and pointing out that you're dating Sakura-chan, I've likely smoothed that over -- no-one in this country wants to get on your bad side, and so won't ever risk offending me thanks to that, and they know I'm not using you to bully them into sweetheart deals -- but, in point of fact, even though both he and I knew what the end result would be, the negotiations themselves were important too. It's a ritual, of sorts, that ensures you are going to play fairly, and not a true attempt to cheat the other person. You say you intend to be hokage, some day -- I know you understand economics, considering the boom we had when you were acting as the village leader, but perhaps you need to study the fine art of negotiation as well. Politics is a difficult thing, and sometimes you have to engage in these little subterfuges, both of you knowing how it will all end, or else your rivals and allies will think much less of you."
Naruto frowned. "So I'm supposed to go along with it when they try and cheat me?"
"No, not exactly. It's more like be careful of your language, and use it to decieve but don't say anything which can be nailed down as a lie. Take this shopkeeper's words, for example: He didn't say the price was 'low,' exactly, just that the market was 'bad.' Well, if you compare how much the price of steel has risen this year and compare it to how much it's risen the past five years or so, he's right -- the market is bad. That doesn't mean the price is lower or anything, or the market is falling, just that it's not as good as it 'should' have been, and therefore it's a 'bad' market. You shouldn't challenge them on this directly, or they'll be offended, but rather say 'but the price of refined steel of the quality we produce has gone up lately.' Again, you're not saying that the price of other types of steel is dropping, and therefore granting him the position that the market for refined steel is 'bad,' but you are still making the case for your steel -- that not only is it doing well, but giving the impression that it's doing better then any other steel in the market. Which is false -- stainless is performing much better then any carbon steel on the market, at the moment, in terms of how much it goes up in value. However, that impression, too, is a part of the negotiations -- if he's doing what he should, he knows that already, and knows you're putting forward a false impression, but once again he can't challenge you on that without being offensive. Unless you're already in hostile negotiations -- which you never should be as a businessman, but might be as a politician -- directly challenging a deception like that is more likely to do harm then good."
Naruto considered those words for a moment. "So you mean... you have to look underneath the underneath when negotiating?"
Unfamiliar with this phrase, the old man paused to consider it. "I... suppose that could be the case."
"Oh! So it's just like being a ninja, then. I get it." Naruto grinned. "You should always look underneath the underneath, when planning a strategy as a ninja. Kakashi-sensei reminded me of that the very first time we trained together."
His face fell, and Sakura's father picked up on it right away. "What is it, son?"
"Son?" Naruto repeated, gaping up at him. "What... huh?"
Realizing that the affectionate term had completely confused Naruto, the older man decided he needed to explain. Lord knew, the boy had heard few enough affectionate terms sent his way in the past, it was no wonder he was a little startled when he heard one directed at him. "You are going to marry my daughter, right? That will make you my son, one day. Forgive me for being a bit premature."
"Oh," Naruto replied, flushing in embarrassment. "Right. Of course. I guess it's a good thing that's what you meant -- I certainly don't want Sakura-chan to be my sister, after all. That would just be... creepy."
"I can imagine," the Haruno patriarch replied, lips twitching with restrained laughter. "But I could tell -- something was bothering you. What was it?"
"I... I can't talk about it," Naruto sighed after hesitating for a moment. "Not even to Sakura-chan. What I can tell you is that it has something to do with Kakashi-sensei."
"From what Sakura-chan tells me, he's been acting rather wierd for a few months, now. Odd enough she felt the need to talk to me about it... and, considering she's been spending almost all of her time with you lately, it says a lot that she brought it up with me."
Naruto looked embarrassed at that. "I'm sorry, Haruno-san. I didn't know. People who have families really shouldn't neglect them -- I should talk with Sakura-chan about that."
Laughter was almost all that the Haruno man could manage after that. Once he could catch his breath again, he gasped, "Oh, Naruto-kun... I can tell I'm going to love having you as a son-in-law."
That, too, caused Naruto's short-lived humor to drop. "Um, yeah," he sighed.
That caused the older man to raise an eyebrow. "Hm, that doesn't sound promising. Is there something else? Something about Sakura-chan I should know about?"
"Not really," Naruto replied. "I love her, and she's great, but... why won't she wear the bracers?"
"The bracers? What bracers? Oh! I remember -- you gave her an ancestral family treasure of those bracers as an engagement gift."
"Yeah. I couldn't get a ring, but I figured those would work just as good, considering," Naruto explained. "And... she says she's not going to wear them until she's ready to announce our engagement. And she's not going to do that until she's ready to get married. I can understand all that, but... well, we ninja don't always have the longest lives, and it worries me... what if something goes horribly wrong, and... and we miss out? I... I'm afraid..."
"I'd be afraid, too," Sakura's father said, sighing deeply. "Still am, in fact, for her sake. And for yours, too -- I was never as sure of you as my wife was, but the way you've treated my daughter these past few months and the maturity you showed when you were put in charge of Blossom proved to me she was right, and so I worry for you as if you were already my son-in-law. And so I worry for you... just as I worried for my wife, when she was still just my fiancee and still just as active a ninja as Sakura-chan is. More so, actually -- she went out on more dangerous and long-term missions, usually. But, in the end, she lived long enough to marry me. She's come back out of retirement, now, but only as a school teacher... and I'm very grateful that she has, since it has allowed us to be with our daughter during this period of her life. I'd always worried for her safety, however... as I always worry about Sakura-chan's. And as I now worry about yours."
Naruto grinned feebly. "I... thank you, Haruno-san. But that doesn't mean I worry about... missing something, with Sakura-chan. I don't intend to die, and I won't let her die if I can avoid it -- for that matter, I'm not sure, with how the seal works now, if I would even survive if she died. But... I asked her to marry me because I want to be married to her, not because I want to be her boyfriend who can't even tell people she's my fiancee. I'm a bit... frustrated about that."
The Haruno man looked at him for a long moment. "I'm afraid I can't really help you with that one -- you'll have to talk with Sakura-chan about it."
"I can't," Naruto sighed. "One part of the reason she doesn't want to announce things is that she doesn't want to be pressured about getting married. I can't start pressuring her, myself, can I? I'd just be... hurting her, and I can't do that."
"There will be times you have no choice but to hurt her," he warned. "She may even want you to do something which could hurt her. I suspect she'll want kids, some day, and childbirth... is very painful. It's also one of the few areas where civilian medicine is superior to medical ninjitsu, and even the civilians can't get rid of most of the pain safely."
"That's just physical pain," Naruto pointed out. "We're ninja -- we're trained to accept physical pain. But the emotional stuff...." His voice trailed off.
There was a long pause, as niether person knew what to say. The shopkeeper chose that moment to return to the room just then. "Okay, your order's ready for inspection. If you'll come this way..."
* * * * *
Sakura hesitated. She had already done what she'd told Ino she would do in that same village more than a year before -- she'd gotten a tattoo. It had stung initially, but thanks to her medical knowledge it wasn't too hard to kill the pain, remove any chance of infection, and just enjoy the primping. At least it was on her leg, which she could show off, and not on a... more private area, like Ino had gotten. It did turn out to be a slightly larger then she'd initially intended, but she liked the look anyway. She hoped Naruto liked it, too, but she supposed he would have to deal with it whether he did or not.
And now, here she was in front of the 'Great Naruto Brothel,' planning to go inside to buy certain supplies she wanted -- replacement massage oils, for the ones Naruto and she had been steadily using up with the massages they were both giving each other, now. For they had been progressing quite a bit, and one of the things Sakura did was have Naruto learn how to 'return the favor' when she gave him a massage. She'd never let them get too far, however, because she 'wasn't ready,' as she constantly told Naruto. What she really wasn't ready for was motherhood, and that... wouldn't be a concern, now. She was very nervous about her plans for that evening, but nothing said she had to go that far... she just would manage the massage, and see how things went from there.
She would need those massage oils, however, and she couldn't get them in Blossom -- Kireme's brothel had yet to establish their own supply line for their 'professional' line of products, and so they didn't have any to sell her. Hopefully, however, the 'Great Naruto Brothel' would have it... or at least something similar. Taking a deep breath, she went inside.
"Hello, welcome to... oh. A girl. We don't do girls," the madame greeted, sniffing slightly.
"I'm, uh, not here for that," Sakura replied, blushing.
"Oh. Well, if you're looking for employment..." The madame looked her up and down. "Well... maybe. Strip."
Anger flashed in Sakura's eyes, but she quickly calmed herself as she remembered why she was here. "I'm not here for that, either."
"Are you looking for someone, then? Your boyfriend, perhaps? I'm afraid we maintain the confidentiality of our clients, so--"
"Can you let me ask for what I want, and quit assuming things?" Sakura huffed.
The madame looked offended for a moment, and then mildly embarrassed as she realized just what she had been doing. "My apologies. My specialty normally is in knowing exactly what our clients desire, even if they do not know they desire it. Apparently, however, you are... not like my usual clients. Which makes perfect sense, if you think about it -- I never cater to girls for a reason, you understand."
Biting her tongue to hold in an angry retort, the pink-haired kunoichi bowed her head in acknowledgement. "Of course. Let me explain -- I come from the village of Blossom--"
"Oh! A ninja village! I've heard you ninja occasionally approach brothels for certain kinds of... lessons. But you're a bit younger then I was given to understand most modern ninja are to begin such training."
Throttling her temper down by shoving it into her overlay persona for Inner Sakura to deal with, Sakura shook her head. "I'm not here about that. If I did need the services of a brothel for that kind of training -- and I've qualified for a waiver of such educational requirements if and when they would have come up, so I'm not -- then, no offense to your establishment, I would approach the brothel that Blossom is subsidizing for such purposes."
The madame blushed. "I did it again, didn't I? My apologies."
"As I was saying, I come from the village of Blossom. My fiance once was apprenticed to a man I'm told all brothels know of, even if they haven't met him personally -- the legendary Jiraiya the Toad Hermit." The reference to Naruto being her fiance had become something of a second nature to Sakura... when dealing with people outside of Blossom. For some reason, she felt a lot more secure with complete strangers knowing then with her friends and family... which, perhaps, was something she needed to work on. But she could deal with that, later -- she had more immediate matters to consider.
The madame flinched. "Oh, my. Um... yes, well, he had a special relationship with most of us where we pass certain pieces of information on to him on occasion. We do have two small packets for him -- one on the matter he asked us to look into regarding the Cloud, and the other regarding the Rock ninja who we identified earlier. I can have them prepared for you in a moment...."
So much for 'maintaining the confidentiality of their clients,' Sakura thought. "That would be wonderful... although that's still not why I'm here. I'm here on personal business, not professional."
"Still, I imagine it would be safer leaving the information packets with you then to try and deliver them by courier, as we usually do."
"Yes, it would. Although I wouldn't be so trusting, if I were you... if I weren't who I said I was, you might be delivering that information to the wrong person."
The madame bowed. "I understand that, ma'am, but please understand that I can tell by the simple fact you warned me you were here on personal business that you are who you say. I will have the packets prepared. Now, about your 'personal business?'"
"My fiance, on his travels with Jiraiya, picked up some professional grade massage oils," Sakura explained. "We have been using them, periodically, but they are almost exhausted. The brothel inside of Blossom is too new to have located their own source for these products, but they recommended I come here and ask for them from a more established brothel. I'm fully willing to pay for them, but I want the real high-end products -- it's my birthday, and I'm used to using those instead of more commercial grades."
The madame hesitated. "Um... we don't usually sell those, but I suppose we can make an exception in this one case -- as an apology for all the misunderstandings I've already put you through, so far. Do you have a specific product in mind, or will a general assortment do?"
"I have here an empty bottle of the brand we've been using," Sakura said, pulling out the exhausted bottle of cinnamon oil from Naruto's now empty gift set. "I'd say we want the cinnamon oil... and, um, possibly some of the fruit flavored variety, as well. I've seen orange, but Kireme-san -- my contact in Blossom's brothel -- tells me they have them in many other fruit flavors, as well."
"I'm afraid we don't carry that brand," the madame replied after a long moment of examining the bottle. "It's too expensive to import. There are, however, more local competitors which are of an equal standard. Would you care to sample them?"
* * * * *
Her business done -- complete with a little surprise for Naruto in her travel pouch -- Sakura made her way to the rendezvous spot she had arranged with Naruto before they split up that morning. She leaned up against the fence along the bridge and smiled nervously to wait for him. She flushed a little, knowing that what she was planning went far beyond anything they had ever done together... and they had been doing a lot, lately. The first time she had given Naruto a massage since... well, the first time -- a memory she still treasured, despite the interruption Sasuke's appearance had caused -- had come after a long, hard day for him on a mission to do one of those many onerous tasks relegated to class D missions. She wasn't exactly sure what the mission was -- probably something related to gardening or the like, if the muck on his clothes was any indication -- but it had ground down his legendary stamina to the point that he was actually complaining about sore muscles. Naruto almost never complained aloud about any aches and pains, although Sakura had seen the evidence of some even after his enhanced healing abilities had cured the actual problem, but that day he was. Sakura knew just how worn out he must have been, then, because his strained muscles had forced him to utter some pained moans as he was sitting down to dinner that night.
She had sent him off to shower after that evening's meal, and slipped into his room to pick up those special oils -- oils which had remained untouched since the clean-up of Sasuke's invasion. Then, she stripped herself down to her underwear, and waited for him. When he arrived in nothing but a towel, Sakura was quick to order him into bed, face down, so that she could give him another massage. Just like the first, she felt herself heating up as she rubbed the hot and spiced oils into his skin. Unlike the previous massage, this time she did give him the happy ending.
It wasn't exactly the 'full' happy ending, perhaps, but... well, there was a reason she knew what the orange oil tasted like on skin. She had still refused to go all the way, though. She'd told Naruto she 'just wasn't ready for it,' which was true -- her birth control techniques were still well away from being effective -- but possibly misleading, since she knew she was emotionally ready for it. She was holding off to make being ready a surprise, and finally, four days before her birthday, she gave herself a blood test and found that the result she had been waiting for had finally been achieved. She was ready. She was so ready.
Naruto wouldn't know what hit him.
* * * * *
Notes: No lemon -- yet. It's pretty much guaranteed for the next chapter, however -- there's still one scene between here and there to get through, but that's more of an introduction, and the lemon will definitely be after that. Well, I think it's pretty obvious I'm leading up to it, anyway. Then there will be an 'after the action' scene, and then... well, that's it until the Volume 3 conclusion arc (which may wind up being a pretty long arc, since I've got quite a bit to resolve). And then Volume 4, where Team Gai plays the role of the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae only with worse odds, Naruto plays the role of Henry V in the Battle of Agincourt, Orochimaru plays the role of Shenlong in DBZ by reviving the dead (only not exactly for the same reasons), and the Hyuuga civil war comes to a head (Sorry, no historic or literary parallels for this one). Er, I've got a lot of work cut out for me, don't I? Next chapter: Sakura and Naruto have a birthday dinner... and more. Well, the obvious more. FFnet readers may discover that the chapter is... much shorter then usual, as most of it will be cut out for ffnet imposed censorship restrictions.