Apprenticed To A Slug

Yo! Here's the fourth chapter.

– "Katon" – Regular Speech

'Suiton' – Flashback/Thought Speech

'Raiton' – Demon/Summon Speech

– "Doton" – Jutsu Speech

Chapter Four

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Temari sighed heavily as she looked up at the blue sky, laying completely still on the sand, thinking of just how she had lost exactly. Her eyes suddenly widened and her head snapped up when she felt a warm sensation entering her body. Looking up, she spotted Naruto and his glowing hands over her stomach.

"Can you lift up your shirt?"

It took her a full second to process what he had asked of her and she blushed scarlet in embarrassment, but soon that embarrassment turned to anger.

"What do you want me to do?" she asked, her voice dangerously low.

Naruto was of course unaware and pushed forward.

"I said, can you lift up your shirt so I can address the spot where my staff hit you."

That same anger that had bubbled only a few seconds ago began to ebb away when she heard the full reason. "Sorry." she mumbled.

"What was that?"

"Nothing!" she replied, quickly. The eldest daughter of the Kazekage did as she was asked and lifted up her shirt a tiny bit and grimaced at what she saw. It hadn't even been five minutes yet and already the bruise she had received from the staff was turning a very ugly color.

"Sorry for this." apologized Naruto. "I still don't know how much strength I'm adding when I use my staff since I'm still learning." he explained. His hands began to hover a bit closer to her skin.

"It's okay." she muttered, blushing again. Her eyes were watching his hands as they were directly above her now and his chakra just felt really nice. She needed to snap out of this, "You're a great fighter!" she blurted out.

He chuckled a bit, grinning at her which she had to look away from. She was so embarrassed by that outburst just now. This wasn't like her dammit!

"Nah, I'm not that strong yet." he replied. "I couldn't help you all those months ago. Once I'm strong enough, I'll be able to help you and everyone else, regardless of the choices I make in the future."

Temari stared up at him in awe. She couldn't believe he already had such determination, and he was younger than her.

"Plus, it helps when I have two great teachers who make me practice over and over again."

Now she could see just how humble he was and giving credit where it was due. Her respect for him rose then and there.

"There you go." he said, snapping her out of her thoughts. "I've tried to fix as many broken capillary's as I could to stop the hemorrhage around the area, but now what I need you to do is rest. Also, try not to poke the area since it is still tender and will cause some minor discomfort."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"Congratulations on your victory." said the Kazekage, a frown on his face. He didn't like it when someone of his blood lost, but he would make an exception this time. Reason being was simple. His daughter lost to someone whose pedigree not only matched hers but so did nearly their skill in combat. If she had lost to someone of inferior quality in which luck played a factor, then he would be singing a different tune.

"Thank you." replied the redhead.

Rasa nodded at the young man. "Come, Temari. We are heading home so we can discuss this bout in further detail and how you will improve from it." Temari nodded at her father and then looked back at her opponent.

"I want another fight against you."

"So do I!"

Former sparring partners looked at Kankurō as he had been the one to speak. All of them stopped to look at him.

"Really?" snorted the elder sister. "If you can't beat me, then you definitely can't beat him."

"Can to!" exclaimed the puppeteer-in-training. He looked to his father, "Can I?"

Rasa stared into his middle child's face. "I'm afraid not." he answered. "The reason is simple. You don't have a combat puppet ready to fight with, and even if you did, it would still take you years to learn how to fight properly with it."


"It's okay, Kankurō." said Naruto. "When you have a puppet ready then I'll fight you. By that time we'll both be super strong and it will be a great spar between the two of us. How does that sound?"

The puppeteer's eyes lit back up again when he heard this. "Yeah! That's a promise."

Rasa, Tsunade, and Shizune all watched the interaction between the two and were simply astounded at how quickly the redhead turned the situation around. With but a few words and a promise he was able to solve the problem.

'He certainly has a very strong type of charisma about him.' thought the adults.

Naruto turned to his first friend in the village. "What about you, Gaara?" he asked. "Do you want a spar in the future?"

Now it was Rasa's eyes that widened when he heard the question. He looked at his youngest child. As of late, he had seen those small changes he had noticed months ago now being shown fully by the boy. The way he greeted others, even if they did not offer him the same courtesy, or even when he smiled. That was perhaps the hardest and most joyful thing he had seen as it reminded him so much of his long deceased wife.

All of this was thanks to the Uzumaki boy who had taken the first step. He patiently waited to see what his son would say.

"I..." Gaara stopped mid-sentence. "...Would like to try."

A small smile appeared on Naruto's lips. "Then I suggest you start training with your family."

The Kazekage read in-between the lines and knew what he was trying to do. The Uzumaki knew he was going to personally train Temari and Kankurō and now he gave him an option of doing the same with Gaara. Only question was, would he take it.

His youngest looked to him. "I...will allow it." he finally said. "But only if you can show me that you are indeed serious about this." he finished.

Gaara gave him the biggest smile he had ever seen.

"Thank you, father."

Rasa simply nodded. "Then let us be off. We have much planning to do if the three of you wish to challenge him again."

Naruto watched the family leave together and he grinned once more. He turned to Tsunade and Shizune.

"Let's go back to the inn so we can rest and then get started on training again." he said, hyped up.

Tsunade resisted the urge to roll her eyes and sigh at the rambunctious demeanor of her student. She really wished he hadn't so brazenly accepted or created new challenges for himself since he himself was still learning under her, but she supposed it would be good for him in the long run. Shizune was the complete opposite of her master and was already thinking of new things to teach him that would give him an edge.

Six Months Later –

'I can't believe it's already January, and an entire year since we've been here.' thought Naruto, packing his things.

It only felt like days ago since they celebrated the new year with the Kazekage and his family. Whether he had learned all the desert could offer was up for debate since it was up to Tsunade's discretion of what she felt he needed to learn out here and since they were leaving she must have felt he had. He was positive that had played a factor but he also remembered the statement his teacher had made when the Kazekage had asked how long they would be staying.

Unfortunately because their time was indeed up, he had to say goodbye to his first friends, that were his age, and he didn't like that. He wished they could have stayed longer, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. Their next location was a minor village compared to Suna located in the Land of Bearsi. The village itself was called Hoshigakure.

Neither Tsunade or Shizune would tell him the real reason why they were traveling there. The only thing they told him was that they themselves had been wanting to go there for a while to study something they had heard was killing people. He couldn't really complain for if his two teachers were curios about something medically, then he was curious as well.

The only regret, not even a regret really, it was more of a wish. He just wished he could have sparred more with Temari. After their initial spar, the two of them had fought a combined twelve more times and it was currently tied at six a piece with their next fight settling the score.

She had been tougher with each fight as she learned from her wins but even more so from her losses against him. Temari was quickly becoming a long-range fighter, especially after he started using minor seals to entrap her, though she quickly learned to avoid them.

He hadn't fought with Kankurō yet since he wasn't ready, nor was his newest puppet. That being said, just because they hadn't fought yet didn't mean he didn't know what the puppeteer-in-training was up to. He had been with his friend a few times when he was creating his puppet and he saw not only how complicated it was to create one, but just how many little nasty surprises were packed into it. One of the things he had seen packed into the puppets mouth were senbon needles.

From finding out that information, Shizune had taken it upon herself to teach him how to use those very same needles after she heard him talking about it. She would have taken it a step further and instructed him how to add different toxins to the tips but felt he wasn't ready for that yet. So she had only shown him how to throw them for now.

Those were the good times in Suna, but with the good times came the bad. Those were very few in number but those that did happen were very scary.

The first time he had encountered a problem was when he had been passing by the greenhouse as he had been searching for his friends, and instead encountered someone else. That crazy lady that Temari had told him about had verbally attacked by calling him names which he just ignored but when she started calling his master names, he lost it.

He got into a shouting match with a little old lady, whom he later found out was one half of the elders of Suna named Chiyo. The elderly woman kept badmouthing his master and kept spouting off things about her past and the slug woman countering her during the 2nd war. As the shouting match between them had kept going, the old lady had pretended to die on him while they were shouting, and that scared him beyond belief. His anger had returned when she had suddenly popped back up and began laughing at him for falling for her prank. He hadn't talked or ran into her since that day. Though that showed him that he really needed to prepare for worst case situations if they ever arose and he alone alone was the only person able to do something about it.

However, that paled in comparison to what had happened between him and Gaara. Unlike his older brother who wasn't ready to fight yet, he could. Unfortunately, they never got to that spar as mere minutes before the fight something had happened that canceled the spar. The staff that had been made for him by the man who was to be his godfather had caused something within Gaara to snap. The staff had touched Gaara on his mark and it all hit the fan after that.

Gaara had screamed like he was in pain, holding his head, as a crazed look entered his eyes. He remembered massive amounts of sand rushing at him and his teachers screaming his name. He would have died that day if he hadn't been used to moving out in the sand. That same staff that had caused all of that ended up saving his life as well. His master had taken hold of it and used it to knock his friend out while the Kazekage held his son down with his own sand before applying a seal on him.

'I still don't know how she was able to use it when it should only recognize my chakra...?'

That was a question he would need to ask his master when they were alone. After that had happened, he hadn't really spoken to Gaara since then, and it wasn't because he hated him or anything. He was just constantly being checked on by Tsunade and Shizune mostly. He wanted to tell his friend that it was all just a freak accident and that he doesn't blame him for anything. Stuff happens out in the field that a person has to adapt to. It was one of the lessons he had learned from his teachers.

"Are you ready, Naruto?" asked Tsunade, her own gear already packed.

"...Yeah, I'm ready."

She nodded. "Good, let's get going."

Entrance into Sunagakure –

The trio, who were being escorted by Suna anbu, were finally at the gates that led into the village and their current way out. Standing just inside the village border were his friends.

"Yo." greeted Kankurō.

"Hey guys." replied Naruto.

Gaara was refusing to meet his eyes.

"We're sad to see you leave, but we understand that you're done here and moving on." said Temari. "I want you to take this." She handed him some of the village dumplings they had shared months ago.

"Thanks." he said, moving onto Kankurō.

"I don't have anything for ya except that promise we made to challenge each other when we meet again." said the puppeteer-in-training.

"That's fine. I expect you to be strong when we meet next time though." said Naruto, shaking hands with his friend. Naruto stopped in front of Gaara.

"I'm sorry..." muttered the youngest sand sibling. "I understand if you don't want to be my friend after what I did to you..."

The Uzumaki heir didn't say anything and simply walked up to his friend and gave him a hug.

"There isn't anything to apologize for." he replied. "Things simply just got out of hand and we both ended up suffering for it." he said. "I don't blame you and neither should you."

Before Gaara could respond, he was cut off.

"I want you to promise me something." Naruto looked directly into Gaara's eyes. "The next time we meet, I want you to be strong, so strong that things like what happened before don't happen anymore. Can you promise me that?"

Gaara began to cry and nodded his head.

"Good." he told him. "I'll see you guys later."

He bid goodbye to everyone, waving to them as he and the others marched out of the village and into the desert.

"...You know it was his fault, right." said Tsunade. She still remembered screaming his name and using the staff to knock the other boy out. "Nobody should react in such a way from a wooden staff touching them." she stated.

"I know." replied the redhead.

"Then why?"

"Because he didn't need to hear that." stated Naruto. "I still remember how he acted when I first met him. The stares he got from those around him, knowing he was there but never acknowledging his existence. Over time he began to open up to his family and vice versa, and had I said something negative, then everything would have went downhill for him. He's one of my first friends and I want him to be happy."

Tsunade sighed, shaking her head. "You are a very nice boy, Naruto-kun." said Shizune, smiling at him.

"Perhaps a bit too nice." muttered the sannin. The brat had almost died on her watch and it had scared the living daylights out of her. She would never admit it out loud, but she liked the brat and didn't want to see his life cut so short.

"By the way, how were you able to use my staff if it's only supposed to recognize my chakra?"

"That staff is made out of very special wood that my grandfather grew for my old sensei. It only makes sense it would work for me since I have his blood running through my veins." she explained. "And though you hold more Uzumaki blood, you are still part Senju since the two clans are cousins, so that is also why I could use it since we share some blood."

"Oh, I see." replied the heir of whirlpools. He knew who her grandfather was, everyone who lived in Konoha did, though his in-depth knowledge on the man was lacking. "Why did Gaara respond the way he did?"

"...I'm...not entirely sure but I do have a theory..." mentioned the slug princess.

"Can you tell me?"

She shook her head. "Can't. It's a secret on a need to know basis, and you don't need to know." Plus, she was sure the anbu shadowing them would inform Minato anyways of what she thought they had just had a run in with. If it turned out she was right then she knew a very big secret of Suna's and that could potentially make them targets, plus she wasn't sure how she would handle the situation if the brat ever found out since she was fairly sure his parents hadn't explained his birth in full detail to him yet.

"Aw, fine. Be that way." he pouted.

Tsunade rolled her eyes. "Anyways, let's get a move on."

Four Months Later –

"Are we there yet?" drawled out the young redhead.

"For the hundredth time, NO!" shouted Tsunade, rubbing the bridge of her nose in frustration. "We'll get there when we get there..."

"Fine, geez. Don't need to be so grouchy about grouch." he muttered.

Shizune grimaced when she heard her kōuhai say that about their master as she thought the woman would have blown a fuse then and there at the comment. Somehow, she hadn't and she controlled herself, though her eye did twitch a bit.

The trio had been on the road for the past four months, passing through one country every month. They had finally reached their destined country, they just couldn't locate the village that was housed in it.

During their trip, he had begun to seal up any plant he recognized and gained knowledge on those he didn't from Shizune. All of them would go towards the development of a greenhouse in Konoha if no such place existed. Apart from doing that on his own, he was only taught one new skill in all of that time while continuing to polish everything else.

"How are you coming along in your dissections, Naruto-kun?" inquired Shizune. It had been about a month after they had left the village and it's country that her master had begun to teach him how to use a chakra scalpel for anatomical dissections, and future surgeries.

"I'm doing...decent." he finally got out. It wasn't that he had a fear of blood or anything since it would be silly for someone who wanted to work in this field to have such a fear.

Tsunade sneezed.

No, he just didn't like having to cut open flesh; be it human or animal, dead or alive. It just wasn't a pleasant experience. The first thing he had to practice on were toads and he didn't know why, but his master had a huge smile on her face and kept muttering something about perverts when she had first demonstrated it to him.

Cutting into toad skin was like cutting into a piece of rubber. It made an awkward sound and gave him an even more awkward feeling when he dug into it. He was trying to get better at it, but it was a slow process.

"Well you better buck up brat." hollered the sannin. "You never know when a skill like that is going to come in handy."

Naruto just nodded, remembering what she told him about always being prepared for any different kind of situation that may arise.

"Hey, did you ever find out about my staff and Gaara?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Nope, still looking into it." replied Tsunade. Of course she knew, she just wasn't going to tell him on express orders from Minato. Like she had predicted, the anbu that was watching over them had indeed reported that particular situation to his leader and he had came to the same conclusion she had after reading over her grandfather's notes on the Bijū. In his notes he had stated that some of the chakra monsters reacted differently than others did when he used his bloodline on them, and the way Gaara had reacted had all but confirmed what he was; a jinchūriki.

"Oh, okay." he replied downtrodden, hoping she had something. "You'll let me know when you do, right?"

She nodded. Minato had told her that he wanted his son to hear the full story from his mouth and at home. Of course, that didn't mean he was naive enough to believe something couldn't happen on the trip that would bring that secret to light, so he had given her permission to explain it to him if it ever arose.

"C'mon, let's pick up the pace. I think we're almost there."

"Sooo, who wants to go first?" he asked, chuckling at their predicament.

The group had hit a bit of a snag in their attempt of trying to continue forward. There was a large chasm in front of them. A chasm that had lots of fumes. Fumes that looked like it would kill them should they try to touch or inhale them.

"How about I chuck you across first..." growled Tsunade, not thinking the situation to be very funny.

"Er, no thanks. Chasms are bad for my health." he retorted cheekily.

Shizune smiled at him affectionately. It was amusing for her to see her master in such a state when dealing with the redhead. They certainly had a strange bond between them but one she knew her master cherished since she hadn't actually gone through with her threat.

"Little brat..."

"That's not a very good idea. Chucking him over the chasm I mean, what if he doesn't make it?" said an unknown voice. The group looked around and spotted a very interesting character. Judging by the height it was a kid but it was the gas mask on their face that rose the eyebrows.

"Trust me, this brat will make it." responded Tsunade. "I trust my own strength."

No sooner had she said those words did the unknown remove their mask, revealing a girl. She looked to be about two years older than Naruto. The girl was a looker and would be a bombshell when she got older. She had long violet hair that traveled all the way down to her lower back and had jade-green colored eyes. The girl was one of those few rare people who stood out on their looks alone, much like Naruto.

"You're Senju Tsunade!" screamed the girl, now having a better view without the gas mask. "One of the legendary sannin!"

"I am." replied Tsunade. "Who are you and where did you come from?"

"Ah, I came from Hoshigakure." replied the girl.

Before Tsunade could continue to question her, Naruto interrupted. "You know where the village is! Can you take us!?" he asked in rapid succession, completely ignoring the stink eye being given to him by his master.

The girl stopped gushing over one of her idols and narrowed her eyes. "Why do you want to go to Hoshi for?"

"We just want to help the people of your village. All of us here are medics or medics-in-training that can help." It was partially the truth. She had heard of the people of this village and all the amazing feats they could do with their chakra, but she also heard of the deaths which was what she was there to check out.

"Mm, I don't know." she muttered. "Though I'm sure the Hoshikage would be glad to know someone wanted to help our village and would be glad to host someone such as yourself."

'Hoshikage? I thought there were only five kage's?'

"I'll tell you about it later, Naruto-kun." said Shizune, being able to read his confused face.

He nodded and then looked back to the girl who was talking to his master. "By the way, you never gave us your name?"

"Ah, sorry about that. I was just excited about seeing such a person here in the flesh." she said. "My name is Natsuhi." she introduced herself just as two wings sprouted from her back, both of them chakra in nature. "C'mon, I'll help you guys get across the chasm."

End of Chapter Four

Alright, that was chapter four.

I know that some of you might be questioning just why Naruto is learning so fast, but I assure you that I'm not just throwing it together. There is a plan in motion that started in the 1st chapter and continues to be shown, in small pieces. It will all make sense when it is revealed why he is learning so fast.

Also, I know I know. Natsuhi is supposed to be an adult, but I just couldn't help myself since the group was traveling to Hoshigakure. Will let you know this now, but she is not a pairing, though she will be part of the story more as you will come to find out in the next chapter.