A/N: A little late, but not too much. This chapter is kind of just here for plot consistency, and I don't like it too much, but the next chapter will be out much sooner than usual. Look forward to it!
As always, special thanks to my beta, Ekusukallybaa, who makes this sufferable. Apparently that's not a word, but insufferable is. That's stupid.
Anyway, his writing is absolutely fantastic. Check it out. All of it.
The morning was cold, and Satsuki felt on the verge of vomiting.
They all arrived at the Training Grounds simultaneously, sans Kakashi.
"Good morning, Satsuki-san," Sakura said, bags under her eyes. Her smile resembled the forced grin of a corpse, but Satsuki nodded at her anyway.
"Ugh..." Naruto said, groaning and sitting down against his bag. "If Kakashi is late again today...!"
Satsuki hoped he wouldn't be.
Three hours later, Kakashi arrived with an entirely disinterested expression. He waved cheerfully. "Yo."
Satsuki supposed she'd be cheerful if she'd had three hours more sleep, too.
"You're late!" Naruto and Sakura shouted in unison, identical expressions of rage on their faces.
Kakashi shrugged, smiling and putting his hands up as though to admit defeat. "I had to run around the village fifteen times to defeat a green beast."
Kakashi dangled two bells in front of them, and they jingled.
"These," he said, "are your ticket to being a shinobi."
He tied them to his belt. "Take them from me, and you get to become a ninja. Don't? And you get sent back to the academy. And you get to be tied to a log while I eat food." Kakashi smiled. "I hope you ate breakfast."
Naruto stomped his feet, furious. "But you told us not to eat any!"
Satsuki felt awfully stupid for having listened. Her hand wandered subconsciously to her stomach.
"Well, maybe you three cute genin ought to think for yourselves," Kakashi said. He reached for the timer, winding a knob at the back and pressing down on the top. "You have until noon. Fight me like you intend to kill me, or you'll do no damage at all, I assure you."
"But, sensei..." Sakura said, looking nervous. "What if we hurt you?"
Kakashi just laughed at her, and Satsuki saw Naruto tense and run forward like a hare.
"As if I'm gonna lose out on being a ninja now!"
And with a roar, Naruto lunged forward, kunai clutched in one hand-
And with a blink, Kakashi had that very same kunai pointed at the back of Naruto's very own neck. He smiled.
"I haven't even said go yet."
Satsuki felt herself go cold.
"But you two would do well to take from Naruto's example... come at me with the intent to kill. Now..."
Kakashi released Naruto's hand from his grip, and walked into the centre of the clearing.
Within a millisecond, Sakura and Satsuki had hidden within the trees, but Kakashi looked entirely unconcerned. Naruto was bemused.
"Aren't you... I dunno, gonna chase after them?"
The man shrugged, and reached into his pouch. Naruto steadied himself, eyeing his bag carefully as he rooted through it.
'Kunai... shuriken... or something else... I don't know what to expect from this guy...!'
With a sleek motion, Kakashi pulled out a small orange book.
"Wait. What? You're reading!?"
Kakashi didn't look up.
"Why are you reading!?"
He still didn't look up, but turned a page. "To find out what happens, of course."
Naruto clenched his fists.
'Is this guy... taking me that lightly?' he thought, but he grinned, and formed a handsign. From the branches, Satsuki frowned.
'What is Naruto doing?'
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
The clearing became filled with Narutos, and Satsuki blinked. 'I suppose... if they're just illusions...'
"Kage Bunshin," Kakashi mused, and his tone sounded a tad surprised. "And so many. How reckless... but I'm impressed. Solid clones."
With a simultaneous war-cry, the Narutos drove forward, and at that moment Satsuki finally understood there was no way she could win against this man.
Naruto was not as graceful or strategic as Satsuki, though he was more powerful; but strategy and grace weren't necessary when there were fifty of you.
Kakashi, with one arm occupied and his eyes glued firmly to the book, span and kicked and blocked and wiped out each and every ninja that Naruto had to offer, and with a final punch to the gut he sent the original Naruto flying.
'This guy, even without looking, can do that...?! We've... we've got no chance...!' Sakura thought, eyes wide.
After a moment of looking at Naruto, leaning against the tree to her right, Satsuki closed her eyes. This plan was the stupidest she'd had yet. 'He must be having an influence on me...' she thought tiredly.
"Naruto," she whispered. His head jerked up to see her in the branches.
"What?" he said loudly, and Satsuki resisted the urge to put her head in her hands.
'Idiot...' she cringed, but flicked her head in order to motion Naruto up into the trees. Thankfully, the boy seemed to get it, but Satsuki didn't stick around to find out.
'Kakashi probably knows where I am now... I've gotta move fast.'
She stopped on a distant branch, and turned to Naruto.
"There's no way we're going to beat him," she said in a low voice. "We've got to team up."
"Are you kidding? There's only two bells! If we team up, it won't be fair on Sakura-chan!"
Now, that was true. Satsuki bit her lip, but her expression was unmoved. "This whole thing isn't fair. He's a jounin, and we'll only win together."
"You can't just leave her out." Naruto pouted and folded his arms.
"Then she can team up with us too."
"There are only two bells, bastard!" Naruto emphasised this point by holding up two fingers.
"Then we'll pick at the end who gets them," Satsuki said, gritting her teeth.
Naruto looked torn. "We'll just end up arguing! It won't be fair. Someone who tried hard might not get one..."
"It's better than no-one getting a bell!"
"I can hear you two, you know."
Naruto fell out of the tree, and Satsuki bent over backwards to avoid the swipe of Kakashi's arm. She propelled herself off a branch with a push of her arms, and landed in the clearing beside Naruto.
"You find Sakura, and I'll try to hold him off for a while."
Satsuki left no room for argument, and she was grateful when Naruto gave her a nod before jumping into the trees. 'Thank God, he can at least listen to instructions...'
"Sakura-chaaaaan! Where are you hiding?"
Satsuki almost choked on her own saliva.
Kakashi approached Satsuki with a nonchalant expression.
"You know teaming up is against the rules," he said after a long pause.
"You never said so."
Kakashi shrugged. "I suppose you're right." He snapped his book shut, and tucked it into his pouch. "But I'm eager to see the Uchiha's famous Gliding Edge taijutsu style. Don't let me down."
'How did he...?!'
As eager as she was to fight someone worthy fighting, Satsuki was beginning to have her doubts. If he already knew of her Gliding Edge style...
"I've seen it myself," Kakashi said. "But to fight it must be quite a different experience. And as the last female Uchiha, you must be the last person in the world who knows it."
'Last female Uchiha,' she thought. 'Last Uchiha altogether... except for Itachi.'
Satsuki didn't say anything, expression darkening as she settled into the first stance of the Gliding Edge with a scowl. Kakashi didn't even come towards her.
She kept her eyes firmly on him. 'This isn't designed for offence, but... if he won't come to me...'
With a graceful spin of her body, she launched a barrage of shuriken at Kakashi. The man jumped easily over them, and Satsuki quickly launched another, jumping backwards and bouncing off of her hands onto a branch. She glared, and threw herself through the air with her arms at her sides.
Kakashi's eyes widened at the direct attack, but he caught her by her shoulders.
'Hah.' Satsuki smirked.
She hooked her leg around the back of his neck, and clamped around his throat tightly, bending over backwards to touch the bells-
Kakashi pushed his fingers into a pressure point at the back of Satsuki's thigh, and threw her off of him. She skidded through the dust, narrowing her eyes.
He didn't look the slightest bit fazed.
Satsuki stood straight and bent her back; she poised one leg slightly outwards on the ground, and with every ounce of grace she had in her body, she began to spin.
After a few moments, the clearing was filled with a thick coat of dust.
'Naruto... you'd better know what you're doing!'
Kakashi was very suddenly barraged with a mass of Narutos, dog-piling him until it became apparent that they were hugging a log.
"Even working together, you three really aren't cutting it," Kakashi said, reaching for his book.
"Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu!"
And out of the dust, came an immense fireball.
Naruto blinked, and jumped back into the trees, and Kakashi jumped to the side of the fireball, the edge of the flames skimming his pants. He made some sort of affirmative noise at the assault, but looked around for a moment.
"Where is Saku-"
He very suddenly became aware of the smell of burning paper, and the floor beneath him exploded.
Naruto cheered loudly, until the chunks of burnt wood hit the floor, and Sakura, Satsuki and Naruto found themselves being tightly bound together by a length of ninja wire.
They hit each other with a monstrous amount of force, and collapsed to the ground. Kakashi walked over, dusting off his pants.
"You three are pathetic," he said, and his tone was so cold that Satsuki could feel Naruto stiffen against her back. "That fireball set off the exploding tags in the ground. I'd be impressed... but you haven't even managed to land a scratch on me."
He knelt down in front of them. "I won't send you back to the academy. You three..."
For a split second, the three relaxed-
"...should give up on being ninja!"
Naruto's outcry came first. "What?!"
"You three lack any talent whatsoever," Kakashi said, voice cold. "Sakura took no part in whatever plan you executed, and you three were completely uncoordinated. Satsuki was the only one who showed any potential, but even she met her downfall by not asking Sakura for help."
Kakashi looked at them, and spoke with a harsh tone. "You are assigned as a three-man cell for a reason. This exercise was about teamwork from the beginning."
"Teamwork?" Sakura said. "But you only have two bells!"
Kakashi turned his gaze to her. "With the intention of splitting you three up. If any of you had bothered to put the team first, you'd have succeeded!"
Sakura's jaw closed.
"But Kakashi-sensei, you don't get it!" Naruto said angrily. "Sakura-chan came up with that plan, and she implanted those exploding tags in the ground when Satsuki created that dust cloud!"
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "Even a tactician needs basic fighting skills, and Sakura has none."
After some awkward movements, Sakura found herself tied against the post.
Their teacher walked towards the strange, carved gem in the middle of the Training Grounds. "Written on this stone, are the names of heroes." Kakashi had his hands in his pockets.
Naruto grinned, and nodded. "Heroes! Now that's cool. What kinda heroes, Kakashi-sensei?"
Naruto quieted. The three of them shied away from looking at Kakashi's back, uncomfortable weights settling in their stomachs.
"On this stone are the names of my closest friends," he said, reaching a finger out to trace the engravings.
There was a long silence, and for a moment, Satsuki felt a twinge of pity for the man. He turned around.
"I've decided to give you three one last chance," Kakashi said. "In the afternoon, you will have three hours to get the bells from me. But first, Naruto and Satsuki eat lunch. Sakura doesn't get any. Feed her, and face disqualification."
Sakura's face dropped.
Kakashi disappeared in a swirl of leaves, and Naruto looked left, right, and behind before holding his lunchbox out to Sakura.
She blinked, before panicking. "Naruto, you can't do that! Kakashi-sensei said we couldn't!"
"So what?" Satsuki intercepted. "He's not around. If you don't eat something, you won't be any good."
"C'mon," Naruto said. "We've gotta be quick or he'll get back here."
Sakura pushed down a smile. 'Even Satsuki is helping me...!'
"My hands are kinda..."
"I'll feed you, Sakura-chan!"
"Nuh-uh! No way!"
Satsuki ended up feeding her.
There was a bang and a swirl of smoke-
The three of them reeled back.
A/N: How do you like your eggs in the morning?
Tell me in a review.