Chapter NINE

"That sword has a hole in it," Sakura noted.

"You can tell?" Sasuke asked.

Sakura nodded. "The chakra of the tree is shifting through the metal."

"You think he dropped it?" Naruto pondered.

"How does dropping something leave a perfect circle?" Sasuke asked, exasperation flooding his tone.

"Maybe he dropped something onto it," Sakura suggested. "Like a very hot cup. You know, maybe he melted the metal?"

Naruto rubbed at his chin. "Maybe a pot." He finally said. "A cup is way too small."

"A pot without handles," Sasuke snapped, then slapped a hand over his mouth. "Shut up."

Sakura giggled.

Behind them, Kakashi sighed. "I hope you understand that that man over there is a very VERY dangerous man," he called out.

Naruto shot the man a look. "He threw a sword at us, Kakashi," he said. "A sword. I think it's pretty obvious he's dangerous."

"You certainly aren't acting like it," Tenten muttered.

"Kakashi is reliable," Sasuke said, almost like a mantra. "He's got this."

"He better," Sakura agreed.

Naruto snorted. "If he doesn't, tou-chan will cut his pay."

"They seem to like you," Gai noted.

"Shut up." Kakashi hissed.

If every villager of Konoha were held at blade point and Kakashi's precious secret cactus collection was at risk of dying, he would admit that he liked his team.

Kind of.

Sometimes, though, he wanted to grab each of them by the shoulders and shake them until their brains flew out of their ears.

If they had any, that is.

Maybe Ibiki had scared it out of them long ago?

Kakashi sighed as his Genin argued about the origin of the hole on the blade of Momochi Zabuza's sword, the one he was sure was used to cut people's heads off.

Yes, maybe that was it. It would be too sad to think about the future of humanity if it turned out that they were born that way.

After ordering their teams to guard their client, Kakashi and Gai engaged Zabuza in battle. Team Seven went into formation even as they continued to argue amongst themselves and Neji subtly glanced over at his own teammates, who were standing there a little awkwardly from fear and perhaps a little shock, and stopped himself from snorting. How pathetic. If they had joined the academy to become shinobi, they should have been aware of the dangers they could face.

Of course he, too, was afraid but he was good enough to not allow his fear to affect his performance.

He had put in too much into this future to risk that.

That thought made a surge of anger arise within him. The three before him, especially Sasuke and Naruto, had been born into a position that put them at an advantage, and they seemed to take it for granted. However, what angered him the most was the fact that Sakura did not seem to care. From what he had heard, she had been a nobody from a dead clan who had been taken in by Ibiki. She was one who had lost everything and had somehow, managed to claw her way up to her current standing.

It was something he had failed to do, and that thought filled him with bitterness.

What did she have that he didn't? What made people look her way when no one had given him a second glance?

Sakura chose that moment to dig into her pouch with a vigor. "I have something...Aha!" She held up an exploding tag in one hand and a kunai in the other. "Watch."

Before anyone could stop her, she drew back her arm and with surprising accuracy and strength, she hurled the weapon upwards, towards the unknown chakra signature that had been observing them. Neji watched the figure dodge the weapon but that didn't matter, because Sakura triggered the explosion a second later. The figure fell from the trees and the fight going on atop the lake stopped as he revealed himself to be a masked shinobi probably around his age.

"Anko-sama told me to blow anyone suspicious to Kingdom Come," Sakura explained to no one in particular. Her eyes, however, were narrowed and lacked their usual brightness. "He was with Zabuza before he attacked us. He's been watching since we first came here. I think he's with Zabuza."

Neji watched Sakura's green eyes glow through the mist. She could probably see the newcomer's thoughts through the shifting of his chakra.

Her eyes gave her the truth people could conceal with fake smiles and meaningless words. If he had those eyes, no one could lie to him and he would never be fooled into believing words made to hurt him.

Even with the assistance of the newcomer, Kakashi and Gai were able to push their attackers into retreat.

"Sakura-chan?" Kakashi called.

"They are nowhere within my range," Sakura replied. "The technique he used looked like it teleported them somewhere else."

"Hm." Kakashi visibly relaxed the grip on his weapon and Gai did the same. The two Jounin glanced at each other and something passed between them before Kakashi took the lead. "Tazuna-san, will you lead us to your house?" He then turned to the Genin. "Don't let your guard down. Sakura-chan, keep an eye out on our surroundings."

Sakura nodded and Tazuna gave the clearing one last wary glance before he pointed and began walking. "This way."

Team Seven and Team Gai were welcomed by Tsunami, Tazuna's daughter and Inari, her son. The woman was quick to give her father a glance over for injuries before she ushered the shinobi into the house.

Sakura allowed the woman to fuss over them even as Gai and Kakashi pulled over to the side to talk quietly amongst themselves.

Tsunami reminded her a little of Mikoto. The kind fretting must be a mother thing.

The shinobi were given a room to rest in and the moment the door closed, Kakashi's smile dropped. "We have to prepare against Zabuza's attack."

Sakura was feeling tired but she forced herself to sit up. "Right."

Naruto and Sasuke shared a look before they moved to stand on either side of her. Team Gai glanced nervously at one another and there was a pause before Neji narrowed his eyes and promptly looked away.

"Zabuza is injured," Kakashi said. "I think we have a little time before he appears again, but he will, and we can never be too careful."

"What do I do with the boy sitting in my cage?" Sakura asked, and Kakashi sighed at her wording.

"You have a boy in a cage?" Naruto demanded. "Since when?"

"She's talking about the enemy shinobi." Sasuke deadpanned, then turned to Sakura. "Right?"

Sakura looked visibly insulted. "Of course." She then paused, as if to think. "But that's not a bad idea." She said. "If I ever get a boyfriend, I mean. The cage can be moved and is connected to my chakra. I can take him with me everywhere."

"Why don't you talk about your future love life when we're not in danger from dying to a Missing-Nin from the Bloody Mist?" Kakashi asked blankly, but he was once again ignored.

"You can't get a boyfriend Sakura-chan," Naruto whined. "Ibiki has high standards, I bet."

"Exactly." Sasuke agreed, eyes firm.

Sakura wilted.

Kakashi tossed his hands up into the air, then turned around to continue their initial conversation with Gai and his team.

He would fill in his own brats later.

A while later, Team Seven found themselves standing in the forest outside the house.

"You will be climbing this tree," Kakashi said. "Without using your hands."

Sakura stared at her hands. "Why would we do that?" She finally asked. "I mean, we have hands for a reason."

"What if your hands were chopped off?" Naruto asked. "Then it'll be better to know how to climb trees without hands, right?"

Kakashi clapped his hands and his students turned to him. Maybe he should invest some time into teaching them signals like he had with his dogs. It would definitely be useful.

"This is training for chakra control," he explained and walked towards a tree. Without pausing, he placed a foot on the trunk and continued to walk. He was soon staring down at them from his place at the top of the tree. "It might help to make a running start."

Team Seven correctly took this as a sign to start. Kakashi turned away from his own brats and towards Gai and his team. The man was enthusiastically telling his own students about something a little more advanced. They had been in a team a year longer than his own, it would not be surprising if they had done this particular exercise before.

"Take this! Now I'd be able to climb trees even if someone cut my hands off!"

Kakashi turned around again, and this time he saw Sakura perched on a high up branch of a tree. He worried she would knock herself off her perch from the way she was waving her arms. He saw the way Sasuke and Naruto glance up at her, glare at each other, then run at their own trees with determination in their eyes. He pretended not to hear the increasingly creative insults they tossed at each other because he was really not ready to deal with the fight that would erupt sooner or later.

"What do I do now?" Sakura called.

Kakashi glanced up again to see the girl now standing horizontally on her tree trunk, arms spread like a gymnast. Naruto was the first to glance up, and he freaked out, falling off his tree in the process. He didn't even appear fazed as he scrambled to his feet. "Sakura-chan! Be careful! You might fall!"

That prompted Sasuke to look up as well, and while he was a little more graceful with his landing he nodded as well. "Sit down on a branch," he ordered. "We'll come to get you."

Sakura pouted but nodded, albeit reluctantly. "I do plan on eating dinner tonight," she said. "I hope I can get down by then."

Kakashi slowly turned away, hoping no one noticed him and feeling relieved when no one called him out for slipping into the shadows. If his three brats all fell out of their trees and he could only save one of them, he wondered who he should grab. They probably wouldn't die, honestly, but broken bones hurt.

Naruto, because he was the Hokage's son, his teacher would worry himself sick on top of all his duties, and Kushina would murder him?

Sasuke, because Fugaku hated him enough already, Mikoto would be terribly, terribly upset, and Itachi would give him the look of utter disappointment relayed without a single word and solely through the eyes?

Sakura, because her guardian was Ibiki and Anko actually liked her and he did not want to wake up in a cell of the T&I building with his arm sprouting from his eye socket?

Or perhaps he could let all three of them fall, convince the Hokage he was not worthy of taking care of children and get rid of them?

"Naruto-you idiot! Be careful-"

"What did you say Teme, you're the one falling-"

"I'm hungry, can I jump off to grab something to eat? I'll climb up again and wait if you want-"

"Don't jump! What if you land weirdly? At least climb down-"

Kakashi decided he wanted to move further away, then wondered why his feet were taking him back to the clearing.


Darque: It's been a while...I'm sorry.

Raven: Me too.

Darque: Stuff happened...

Raven: Inspiration ran away for this story.

Darque: Partially, that's because this story was started a while ago, and I was a mess back then. I wrote for a single scene I wanted to see, and I had no idea how to get there, so I kind of grabbed at things as I went.

Raven: Yes, it's all her fault.


Raven: :)

Darque: On a side note, I now have a Tumblr (Darquedeath4444) where I post fanfiction (If they were already written by the time I posted them, I went over them for mistakes and stuff) as well as fanart, for if you're interested, please check it out!

Raven: She can draw. Who knew?

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