Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Vol 4 Chapter 11 ( Chapter 71 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Chapter 11

"I am still not sure about this boy," the head of the Morino clan intoned, having taken a few minutes to consider the prepared speech Ino had delivered. So far, she had been to see the Hatake clan head, and she felt her meetings had gone well... though she was a bit concerned about the clan head himself, even if the clan seemed to approve of him -- he seemed to not particularly care one way or the other about Naruto, but was much more concerned with internal clan politics. And his internal clan politics seemed to be 'do everything to annoy that son of the biggest disgrace this clan has ever seen, Kakashi.' To make matters worse, she had been refused an audience with the Mitarashi clan head. Nevertheless, she went on to visit Morino undaunted.

"What more do you need to know?" Ino asked, staring evenly into his eyes. Ibiki, who she remembered distinctly from the written part of her chuunin exam, sat at the man's right, and a female member of the clan -- an elderly one with the reputation of being a genjutsu specialist -- was on his left. But Ino wasn't going to let herself see their reactions at all -- as the saying went, "It is dangerous to look away from the snake that wished to strike."

"I am still uncertain that he has what it takes to be hokage," the Morino clan head replied. "He is a noted prankster, and is not known for his intelligence. While I concede that he is not the kyuubi, and has succeeded in overcoming significant bias despite this belief in others, I am not sure there is any proof that he has the brains for the job."

Ino smirked. "Oh, I see. I'm sure you're familiar with Tsunade-sama's current attendant, Nara Shikamaru. Would you regard Shikamaru a poor tactician?"

"No," Morino sighed. "But I hardly see how that matters."

"Naruto beat Shikamaru in a game of chess, in a game before many witnesses -- including Hyuuga Neji, who was quite impressed with Naruto's game," Ino pointed out. Shikamaru's prowess in the game of chess was known in every part of the world that ninja inhabited, and most never knew that he'd ever lost. That Naruto had managed it, and in a way that impressed others whose tactical prowess was considered high, was a fairly convincing argument that the young man had the tactical ability for command, in and of itself. "Some of that was Shikamaru being careless, but even he concedes that Naruto is a more than adequate tactician. There is also a common belief among the people of Blossom that Naruto, who ran the village many times during his tenure in the village, including a three month period, was the best leader that the village could possibly have had. Naruto even established a 'shadow government,' effectively keeping Blossom afloat for several years while an undercover mission was forcing Kakashi-sensei to run the formal government incompetently. His jounin team has the highest efficiency report of all the teams in Blossom. Now, he is still something of a prankster, but he uses those pranks in educational ways. He is occasionally naive in interpersonal matters, which leads to his reputation for poor intelligence, but in truth he has a very high I.Q., a strong knowledge of ninja skills and ninja philosophy, an unorthodox but effective manner of teaching others those things they need to know."

"All interesting points," Morino sighed. "Ibiki, what are your thoughts?"

Ino blinked, not expecting the clan head to seak the advice of his underlings... at least, not while she was there. Most clan heads would view such a thing, when meeting with a relative nobody such as her, as a weakness. Obviously, however, the clan head trusted Ibiki pretty far.

"Well," the inquisition specialist began. "I recall his written chuunin exam. I figure we would have had about twelve teams pass that exam and not drop out, but he made a speech that inspired courage throughout the room. We wound up with twenty-one teams, that year, thanks to him." He paused. "He's also fairly remarkable for being the only person I know of to pass the written exam with a blank piece of paper. I don't know if that was an example of courage or foolhardiness... but I suppose, given everything else I've heard about him, I'll go with courage." He paused. "I would gladly serve him, were he the hokage."

The Morino clan head seemed to consider his subordinate's words carefully. Whether he was actually doing so, or just delaying his decision for the sake of appearances, Ino couldn't tell. "Well, I will consider your words, Yamanaka-san. Before you came to discuss this matter with me, I was going to vote against Naruto's confirmation, but you have given me much to think about. I promise you, I will make a fair judgement, and I will not allow my past prejudices to make me vote against him. He has a strong advocate in you, I think."

"I shall escort you out," Ibiki said, standing up and bowing to everyone in the room. "Morino-sama, I will return momentarily."

"As you wish."

Ibiki lead Ino down the long, easily defensible hallway that was the entrance to the Morino compound. The Morino clan had arrived after Konoha's founding, and -- lacking the finances to buy more than a single piece of property that was bordered by cliff walls on three sides -- built its compound underground. It was filled with well lit rooms, and had most of the modern conveniences, but it kept most of the people of Konoha ignorant as to how large they really were. However, during major crises such as the kyuubi attack, or the Sand-Sound War, they graciously opened their doors to refugees from all corners of Konoha, which made them a very influencial clan. Ino had been hoping for a stronger commitment from the clan head, so she could use his decision when presenting her case before the Maito clan, but it seemed as if the uncertainty about Morino's vote was still there.

Her disappointment must have been blatantly apparent to the trained inquisitor escorting her, though Ino couldn't tell for certain until he began speaking to her. "You did good back there, Yamanaka-san."

Ino smiled half-heartedly at him. "Please, Yamanaka-san is my father. I am not the head of my clan, nor do I wish to be, so I will remain Ino."

"Ino-san, then," Ibiki replied agreeably. "Though, if that speech you made to my elder is any indication, you would do well to consider taking the job."

"I'm a long way from retirement, yet," Ino replied, laughing softly. "So that is just a pipe dream."

"As you wish," Ibiki agreed. They continued on in silence briefly before he continued. "He may have sounded non-commital, but my elder will be voting for Naruto when the time comes. You have enlightened him to Naruto's virtues convincingly."


"However, he does not want his decision to be used for propaganda purposes," Ibiki explained. "As long as he doesn't commit to anything, you cannot go around claiming he has."

Ino sighed. "Yes, but if he supports Naruto, then why wouldn't he let me?"

"Because he wishes to avoid conflict. The Hyuuga Matriarch's faction is violently opposed to Naruto's candidacy, and may decide to strike on anyone who voices their support of him. It is true, he will eventually have to go on the record with his vote, but once the vote is cast the motivation for such a conflict dissapates down to simple revenge, and on a matter like this simple revenge is unlikely to spark clan warfare."

Ino glanced at Ibiki for a moment. "You know, for someone who has undergone unspeakable tortures to keep a secret safe before, you're being awfully informative."

"'It is dangerous to hold onto a secret so tightly that you cannot use it when you need to,'" Ibiki recited. "I'm proud to say I'm the one who originated that particular line of the Konoha Ninja Code. There were things you needed to know, and so... now you know them. And you know why they must be kept secret, so you will protect the secret yourself."

Ino nodded, realizing the truth behind his words. "I understand. No-one shall know of the Morino clan's decision until after the vote."

Ibiki smiled. "Good. Now, don't walk into any more genjutsu that might make you reveal this secret. Kai!"

Suddenly, Ibiki -- and the corridor she had been walking down -- were gone. Instead, she was outside of the compound, walking down an empty allyway towards what was likely the main square of town. She wasn't even exactly sure of where she was, and had no clue how long it would take to find someplace familiar where she could get her bearings. "Argh," she sighed. "I hate being caught in a genjutsu."

"You aren't the only one," a familiar voice said from behind her. Ino spun around to see a very satisfied-looking Naruto supporting a tired Sakura as they walked down the same alleyway. "Fortunately, my wife here is usually able to recognize them and break us out of them pretty easily."

"Sakura-chan! Naruto-dono!" Ino cheered. "Welcome back! How was the honeymoon?"

Sakura let out a wide yawn. "Well, kyuubi's usually insatiable, but he seemed satisfied with his vicarious experience. Naruto's a bit more demanding, though, so we had to keep going even after the fox had worn himself out."

Ino flushed. "Um, that's... nice."

Sakura giggled slightly. "Sorry, didn't mean to throw it in your face like that. I guess I'm just so tired I wasn't even thinking. Still, Ino, I think you need to find a guy for yourself. You'd be surprised at how much fun it can be."

Ino turned even redder. "Uh, right. Fun."

"Well, we're back, now, and so we're not likely to have that much fun again for a while," Naruto sighed regretfully. "We wanted to meet with a few people and see how far they got on the projects we wanted done while we were on our honeymoon, but we're both just too tired for tonight. We'll catch up with everyone tomorrow."

"I'm sure they'll understand," Ino replied, glad that the topic had moved on to safer grounds. "I think we weren't expecting you back until tomorrow, anyway, so some of them might not be ready for you, yet."

"Things will be moving a lot faster than any of us expect over the coming weeks," Naruto said with a yawn. "So people should start expecting the unexpected. That includes watching out for assassination attempts, so keep your head on a swivel."

Ino nodded slowly. "Yes, I was reminded, just a few minutes ago, about just how dangerous politics can be around here. I'll keep my eyes opened."

Naruto grinned in reply. "Good enough. Well, we're heading on home, now, so we'll see you later. Stay safe."

"Wait!" Ino called, sounding almost panicked as they started to leave.

Naruto and Sakura instantly stopped, suddenly dropping into an alert stance. "What, what is it?" Naruto asked, glancing everywhere and looking for danger. "Where's the attack coming from?"

Ino flushed. "Er, there's no attack, but... um, can you guys help me get home? I got lost in a genjutsu, and it's been so long since I've been in Konoha I'm not sure where I am any more...."

Naruto and Sakura stared at her incredulously for a few moments. Then, Naruto started snickering, which got Sakura laughing, and it escalated from there. "Sure thing, Ino-pig," Sakura teased amiably. "Come on. We'll show you the way home."


"That is not possible," Matsuri said, listening to the reports coming in. Lee had wanted everyone to get together at least once a week, ostensibly to share their findings but really more just to make sure that they were all safe. Matsuri, Lee's second in command, was running the meeting while he patrolled their camp himself. She would be giving him a summary of everything when they were done, of course, but she felt it was a poor decision on his part to not at least feign interest in what was being said. She wasn't entirely unhappy about being in charge, however -- she was hoping to make jounin some day, and could use the experience.

"What is not possible?" one of her genin asked defensively. He was known for his practical jokes, but got very offended when people didn't take him seriously when he wasn't joking. "That's what they told me! I wouldn't lie about that, even for a joke."

"I didn't say you were lying," Matsuri explained. "Just that what you were told was impossible. That people are running from some ongoing calamity they believe is a greater demon, that much I can buy. But it isn't the kyuubi -- Konoha knows where the kyuubi is, and I can assure you he is not terrorizing the countryside to the north."

"I think most of the bijuu were accounted for in Naruto-dono's last battle," Daichi noted. "From what Futaba-chan told me before she left for Konoha, Naruto-sensei was in a battle against a number of people possessed by the bijuu and defeated all of them. The only bijuu that is still supposed to be out and wild is the eight tailed one... which is some kind of snake, I believe. Pretty hard to mistake a snake for a fox, I would say, but these people are obviously running from something of that level."

Matsuri sighed. "Well, it doesn't matter who it is that's really attacking them, I suppose. As long as they believe it's kyuubi, that means trouble."

"Why would that be any more trouble than anything else that might cause these people to run?" one of Daichi's genin asked cynically. "They're running from something, that means trouble, no matter who they believe is causing it."

Matsuri nodded. "That's true, to a degree. It's certainly troubling, no matter what they're running from. But it's more troubling if they things it's kyuubi." She paused, trying to think of how to explain. "A couple decades ago, kyuubi was raging across the world. Konoha stopped him, and a large part of Konoha's reputation as the strongest of the ninja villages comes from our having beaten the kyuubi. If people start to think we didn't beat him, after all, it has major political implications around the world."

"Not to mention problems for Naruto-dono in particular," Daichi pointed out. "He'll have a lot of trouble if word of this reaches Konoha."

"Which, if what I've heard is true, he doesn't need right now," Matsuri sighed. "Well... it's Lee's choice to make, but I think we need to explore this further. Maybe we should even try and see this 'kyuubi' for ourselves. Okay, everyone, dismissed. We'll turn in for now, and decide in the morning whether to resume the mission as-is or to change it."

The assembled ninja stood from their seats around the campfire and slowly made their way to their tents, but Matsuri stayed behind to tend the fire. She had to stay up to brief Lee, after all, but she wasn't sure if she could have slept if she wanted to.

Lee stepped out from the trees once everyone was gone, and flashed her a big smile. "Good job, Matsuri-kun! You ran that meeting so effectively it was obvious how bursting with youth you were!"

Matsuri turned a disdainful eye on him. "Quit channelling Gai-sama, Lee-kun. You're even wierder than he is when you do that."

Lee flushed. "Well, it works for him," he pointed out.

"So, you heard everything?" Matsuri asked softly.

"Of course. You didn't really think I wasn't going to listen in, did you?" Lee replied rhetorically. "I knew the genin would be a lot more comfortable speaking up if I wasn't here. I think they're scared of me."

"Like I said, Lee-kun, you really need to quit channeling Gai-sama," Matsuri giggled, but then became serious again. "So, are we going to be changing our mission, or are we continuing as-is?"

Lee thought about it for a minute. "Continue as-is for now," he said. "But I'll have Daichi-kun summon a messenger bug before we move out, tomorrow -- he should be able to get one that can go to Gai-sensei, tell him what's going on and give him your recommendations, and see if he has any instructions. We have the time to wait for a decision from the higher-ups, for now."

Matsuri nodded. "Good enough. So, what do you think is going on? A bijuu, or something else?"

Lee frowned. "Well... I'm not sure. But I certainly hope it's something else." He paused. "You don't have to fight fire with fire, but it's almost impossible to fight a bijuu without another bijuu... and our bijuu is out of town right now."


"Well, I got a message back from Haruno-san," Iruka sighed, shaking his head. He was meeting with Ino, again, at the Ichiraku, as they had on several days that past week to discuss their ongoing campaign for Naruto's confirmation. "She complained a lot about feeling like a boomerang, having to constantly go back and forth between Konoha and Blossom, but she believes she can make it if she has at least two days notice, since she will be along and won't have to carry anything. I haven't heard what day the vote is supposed to be on, though, so I'm not sure when to tell her to be here."

"I'll find out from my father," Ino said. "He'll know, since the law says that, as clan head, he'll have to know at least a week in advance so he can be sure to be in town on the day of the vote."

"Hm, good point, but don't bother. I'll be sure to mention to Tsunade-sama that we have a clan head out of town, and need to send her the proper one-week notification before a vote can be in place," Iruka replied. "She'll take care of it. Now... how have the meetings gone?"

Ino paused to consider. "Very... oddly. I'm convinced we'll have the votes of the Maito, and Morino clans, but... well, I wasn't able to get an audience with anyone from the Mitarashi clan, and I just can't tell with the Hatake clan chieftan. I'm fairly certain that most of the members of the Hatake clan want Naruto confirmed, but I don't think their clan chief cares about that...."

Iruka sighed. "Well, you did your best." He glanced over at Ayame, who sat in on every one of their conversations from behind the counter. "I have a couple things in the works, myself, but I'm not sure any of them will turn out. My clan head is dead-set against Naruto-kun, and I have no idea how to convince him otherwise."

"All we can do is our best," Ayame reminded them in a sing-song tone. "We have to trust in fortune to provide the rest."

Ino frowned. "Is that a ninja saying?"

Ayame laughed. "Hardly! It's something my father taught me. He said it's a line from a ramen-slinger's ballad from lean times."

Iruka coughed. "Actually...."

"Yes, dear?" Ayame replied, directing her attention to him.

He shook his head. "Never mind. I must be thinking of something else. But you're right -- Naruto has never given up on his dream and has gotten this far despite all of the obstacles thrown in his way. Why should we give up, now?"

"That's the spirit!" Ayame cheered, then turned a mock frown at Ino. "And you should have known that, too. After all, don't you have a bit of Naruto-kun in you, too?"

Ino flushed. "Well... yeah. But I spent a lot of effort seperating my personality from his, over the years. It hasn't completely worked -- I wouldn't have such a fondness for ramen otherwise -- but I have to pull the good things out with the bad, as long as I want to maintain my individuality. If I want to know how Naruto-dono thinks -- or at least the thirteen year old Naruto -- I can sort of ask that part of me about it, but I can't let his traits 'leak' into me or else they all will." She paused. "Not that I was ever much of a quitter, before. Well, maybe once or twice -- I nearly gave up to Neji-kun at the second stage of my chuunin exam, and I almost quit against Sakura-chan in the preliminary tournament after that stage because I didn't really want to hurt her. And then... well, okay, maybe I wasn't ever one of those 'never say die' people like Naruto-dono has become. Still, I'm not giving up on this."

Ayame smiled pleasantly. "That's good to hear. And I think I can speak for everyone at the Ichiraku and ramen stands everywhere when I say we're glad that you at least kept the fondness for ramen."

Ino sighed. "Yeah, I've grown to love ramen... but oh, my waistline! Do you know how difficult it is to keep trim when you have to keep a ramen-hungy personality inside your system happy?"

Iruka started to laugh along with the girls, but stopped instantly. "Ino-chan, do not move an inch."

Ino froze instantly, not even daring to breath. When a senior ninja said something like that, you knew you were in trouble. She tried to glance around and see what the problem was, and it was only after she caught a reflection off the napkin dispenser that she saw what the trouble was.

Ayame, ever the hostess, plastered a smile on her face. "Ah, hello, Hyuuga-sama. Welcome to the Ichiraku. Can we get you something today?"

The Hyuuga matriarch, stepping far enough under the shade that Ino could see her out of the corner of her eye even without the reflector, laughed derisively. "Me? Getting peasant food from a kitchen whore like you? Hardly!"

There was a slight cracking sound as Iruka stiffened up. "Just what did you call Ayame-chan?" he asked dangerously.

"A kitchen whore. Why?" Hyuuga cracked. "You mean she's giving it away for free? Wow! I thought the days of that happening had long since passed. My mistake -- she's just a kitchen slut, not a kitchen whore. I guess she's just not good enough to charge for her ser--"

She was interrupted by Iruka's fist in her jaw. He had been too angry to even think of any technique, or to add in any chakra to boost his strength, but he wasn't really thinking of this as a fight. More of as a way to defend his lady's honor. However, because he hadn't been thinking, he didn't realize until too late just how huge of a mistake he had made.

The Hyuuga matriarch stood up, a vary dangerous smile on her face. She wiped at her lip, and saw that just a slight trickle of blood appeared on it. "Oh, my... it looks as if you've attacked me. I guess I have no choice but to defend myself, now, don't I?"

Ino's eyes widened. Iruka didn't stand a chance without help, and she would need help herself. So, she started to call on the only help she could. "Naruto bunshin nngh..." was all she got out before a blow she hadn't seen coming sent her to the floor. Too stunned to see what was going on, and just barely fading in and out of consciousness, Ino couldn't figure out what was going on in the battle. It sounded viscious, however, and by the time she had regained her senses it was over. Iruka lay, sprawled on the ground, bleeding profusely from several spots.

But why? Ino thought, trying to make sense of the horror that she saw. Ayame was crying over his body, and the undamaged Hyuuga matriarch was standing over them. Then, something occurred to her. She clearly came in here to provoke a fight, but why with Iruka of all people? He has no influence over anyone, and he's hardly worth the risk. If she was just trying to send a message, then she should have attacked me -- I'm acting as Naruto's standard bearer in all of this. If I were assaulted and killed, it might frighten the less commited into following her path, but no-one will even notice an attack on Iruka. So why him?

The Hyuuga matriarch snorted bitterly. "Oh, quit your whining, kitchen slut." Ayame glared at her, but remained protectively draped over Iruka's body. The matriarch seemed to be trying to hide it, but she was obviously watching for the waitresses reactions.

Ino, observing the scene, couldn't believe it. No... no way. Why?

"He's not dead, and he probably won't die as long as you get him to the hospital soon enough. But why should you care? You're good looking enough, I suppose, for a tart that works at a ramen stand. As long as you don't charge too much money, you should be able to convince some dirty old men to rape you, like I'm sure you want." Ayame seemed to just barely restrain herself from attacking. Ino saw this and tensed. "Besides, you're probably better off. The dirty old men will probably be better lovers than this loser ever could be."

"Enough!" Ayame screamed, leaping towards the Matriach... before being caught in mid-air, restrained, and wrestled to the ground by Ino, while one of her Naruto clones stood between them and the Hyuuga woman.

"Stop," Ino whispered, restraining the struggling woman. "I don't know why, but she did all this to get to you. She wants you dead, and if you attack her she can kill you legally, so stop trying. Let's get Iruka-sensei to the hospital... he needs treatment more than you need revenge, anyway."


"Trust me," Ino said. Turning to glare at the woman, she narrowed her eyes. "She'll pay for all of this. But let's make it on our terms, not hers. Got it?"

The Matriarch laughed. "Well played, young Yamanaka-san. But there's nothing you can do. I can already count twelve votes on my side, and with so many vacancies in the seats your boy has already lost. And good riddance, too -- he sticks his nose into internal clan business way too much. So, my plan for 'insurance' has failed, but you've still lost." Cackling madly, she disappeared into a puff of smoke.

"Was she telling the truth?" Ayame asked, slowly standing up and heading over to Iruka. "Does she really have twelve votes, already?"

"I only count ten on her side," Ino replied, helping the other girl pick him up safely to take to the hospital. "A couple others may be leaning her way, but we'll see. Never give up, right?"

Ayame smiled slightly, still red from anger and still concerned over Iruka's health, but encouraged nonetheless. "Right."


Notes: Okay, so I didn't quite get to the vote this chapter. I hope ya'll forgive me. Once again, I caution you against expecting the next chapter too soon. It might come in a day, or it might take a year. We shall see.
Next Chapter: NOW we get to the vote. Also, Tenten is assigned on a mission to reinforce Lee's team, and goes to have a talk with Kireme first. Given how long I expect the vote to take, that'll probably be all of it, but maybe we'll find space for something else, we'll see.