Sakura mentally prepared herself as she approached team seven's unofficial training ground. After yesterday's harsh lesson she had taken a good hard look at herself, and come to the conclusion that she needed to change.
She was no longer an academy student defying her family's expectations, she was a full fledged kunoichi now. Her hair had just been the beginning. The time for childish pursuits like cute boy's and looking pretty had come to an end. If she wanted to become as great as she always dreamed she would, she would have to make sacrifices. Time spent in front of the mirror would be spent on the training grounds, pretty outfits of silk and cashmere would be replaced with Melton cloth and leather. She took a second to eye the memorial stone located near the edge of the training ground, making a mental promise to never have her name engraved onto the obsidian slab, before heading towards her two teammates who had arrived earlier.
Sasuke was the first to notice her presence, his eyes widening and eyebrows raising in what had to have been the most surprise she had ever seen him show. Naruto was quick to notice his reaction and turned to see what had surprised the normally stoic Uchiha. Predictably, he had a much more vocal reaction.
"Whoa! What the hell happened to you Sakura?! What's with the new look?"
Sakura crossed her arms over her chest, uncomfortable with the intense scrutiny.
"We aren't kids pretending to be shinobi any more, we're the real deal. I thought it was time to grow up a little."
Honestly she had been expecting her teammates' surprise, she had made a rather drastic change after all. Her normally free-flowing hair was now tied back into a single heavy braid which reached to just below her shoulders, but that was not the only change. Some late night shopping had allowed her to change her outfit as well. She kept the same style of skin-tight shorts that reached just above her knees, however her knee length combat dress had been replaced by a heavy cloth vest. The new vest was covered in pockets to make up for the lack of holding space on her shorts, and was her usual pink colour with white highlights around the edges.
She had also replaced the standard blue shinobi sandals with a pair of slate grey ones which were made of a sturdy leather. The final change was her forehead protector, which was now firmly tied over her forehead instead of being used as a prop to keep her hair out of her eyes.
Naruto's reply was cut off as Kakashi suddenly appeared off to the side. He announced his arrival with his usual deadpan 'Yo' before launching into the day's plan, the only sign he even realised she had changed her outfit being a single raised eyebrow.
"Alright kiddos, we've spent a bit more than two weeks shoring up your weaknesses and you've all made some considerable progress. Therefore it is time we started establishing your specialities."
He held up a single hand to prevent anyone from interrupting him as he explained further.
"As you all know, in order to be considered for jonin, which I know you are all aiming for, you must display a mastery of every facet of being a shinobi. To become a chunin however all you really need to do is impress either your superiors or the examiners during the bi-annual exams. As you might imagine that is a lot easier to do by working towards your strengths. Taking down any opponent before they realise what's going on means that you never have to show your weaknesses after all."
Naruto held up a hand, confusion clear on his face.
"Not that I'm complaining, but why should we be so focused on becoming chunin? Wouldn't it be better to just stay genin for a little while so we get training from a jonin you?"
"'Experience is the most sharpest blade a shinobi will ever posses' That's on of the second Hokage's most well known quotes, and it is incredibly valuable advice. As a genin you are limited in the types and levels of the missions you will be assigned, which prevents you from obtaining the experience needed to become a great shinobi. The sooner you begin accumulating said experience the better.
Not only that, but many chunin stay in their original teams. I still ran missions with my genin team when I was promoted to chunin, and became the leader of said team after my promotion during the Third War, so there really isn't that big of a risk of the team being split up. Anything else?"
When no one spoke up Kakashi pointed at Naruto.
"Alright, you're first Naruto. Due to your absurd of chakra reserves as well as some other stuff you are able to throw out high-ranked and chakra intensive ninjutsu like candy. You also refill your chakra reserves at such a stupidly high rate I doubt you will ever run out of chakra unless you unleash multiple A and S rank techniques one after the other.
This means you will be the main ninjutsu specialist on the team. Your job will be to stay back and either support your teammates or disrupt enemies, controlling the battle. To aid this we will be continuing to work on your fast-twitch muscles so you can quickly disengage and gain distance. But before we start you on techniques you will be doing a lot of chakra control exercises. Your control is currently horrendous, causing you to waste vast amounts of chakra whenever you use a technique of any kind."
Sakura had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes when she caught sight of her blonde team mate's predictably ecstatic expression. The mention of 'other stuff' was a little interesting though. Kakashi then moved to point towards her other teammate
"Sasuke. Your bloodline limit alone will make you a superb close-quarters combatant. Combined with your already existing skills and your slightly above average chakra capacity you will be the team's vanguard. Your job will be to engage enemies as quickly as possible to prevent them reaching Naruto. Once engaged, your job will be to dispatch the opponent or throw them off balance long enough for either Sakura or Naruto to take them out. To this end you will be working on increasing overall speed and strength, while also learning how to properly use short weapons such as daggers and kunai. We will not be working on any nin- or genjutsu, as you will passively learn many while your Sharingan is active during fights."
As usual Sasuke said nothing. A curt nod being the only sign that he understood, but a tiny frown betrayed the fact that he probably didn't like the last part. Finally Kakashi turned to Sakura herself.
"Sakura. To be blunt you will always have a below-average amount of chakra. Fixing the imbalance between your spiritual and physical energies can only go so far, so you will need to learn how to be as efficient as possible. Unlike Naruto and Sasuke, you cant afford to be in a protracted fight where you are constantly expending chakra as you have neither the stamina nor a bloodline to help you level the playing field. This leaves your job in the team as an opportunist. In a perfect scenario you will be between Sasuke and Naruto, taking advantage of opportunities that he and Naruto create to move in, dispatch the opponent, and then move back. Quick, surgical strikes that bring down opponents with as little energy expended as possible is the objective. To this end you will be working on chakra control, physical conditioning, basic anatomy and more mid-to-long range weapons."
Kakashi lowered the hand he had been using to point at each of them in turn, indicating he was finished and allowing them to ask questions.
"What about the training we were doing before?"
"You will still be doing those exercises at the start of every training session, but only for an hour or two. Added on to that we will be doing team-building exercises every other morning so you can start working on your teamwork. "
Sakura nodded to show her understanding, and seeing that no one else had any questions Kakashi did his single clap and smiled at them.
"Well then, time to get started!"
Naruto ambled down the street, smile etched onto his face as he headed towards his favourite place in the entire village. Kakashi had given them a day off in order to let them rest after the crazy training he had put them through for the last few days, rest which they were all grateful to receive.
Sakura by far had it the worst, her reluctance to exercise during the academy had come back to haunt her. The constant running, jumping and various other exercises meant that she left the training field a wreck every time they were done for the day. Her new look had surprised him, but she seemed to be taking the whole 'grow up a little' idea really seriously so he doubted it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. She had even cut back on her Sasuke-staring!
Sasuke on the other hand seemed to be doing fine physically, however his shorter-than-usual temper in the mornings betrayed the fact that he was clearly feeling the muscle pains.
Naruto almost felt bad that he had no issues with the aches and pains of the hard exercise, his rapid healing making his life a lot easier. He was glad for the day off though, between the training and the reading Kakashi made him do he had ended up with very little free time lately.
Seeing a familiar hoodie brought Naruto out of his musings, his permanent smile widening a little as he hurried towards his target.
"Oi! Dog-boy! Wait up!"
The young teenager wearing a grey, fur-lined hoodie paused and turned towards Naruto, feral grin spreading across his features.
"Well if it isn't the Orange Eyesore! Its been a while!"
Naruto laughed at the good nature ribbing, pausing only to wrap an arm around the shoulders of one of the few friends he had in the academy.
"It has! C'mon, I'm heading to Ichiraku's for lunch. Wanna' come with?"
Kiba paused for a second to think before shrugging.
"Sure, not like I have to be anywhere in a while and I was just about to get something to eat too."
The two young shinobi sighed contently as they finished slurping down the last of the ramen broth.
"Aww man, that really hit the spot."
Naruto slapped a hand against the counter top, shouting for another bowl then turning towards his friend.
"Yea it's been way too long since I've been able to come here, Kakashi-sensei is driving us into the ground with the training. It wouldn't be too bad but the only thing he's had me do lately is a stupid chakra control exercise."
"Yeah I feel you, Kurenai-sensei might be a total babe, but she's suuuuper strict."
"Oh?" Naruto responded distractedly, his focus on the new bowl of ramen placed in front of him
"Yup. Shino says its probably cause she cant really help us with training so she really pushes us during teamwork exercises and missions. Not only that but apparently she's a pretty new jonin so she might be trying to over-compensate."
Naruto blinked in confusion, already halfway through his bowl.
"Wait, she doesn't help you with your training?"
Kiba just shrugged
"Not really her fault. All our parents are clan heads, which means we are expected to master our family techniques as early as possible so that we can become the best representations for our clans. As an outsider she can't help us with that, so most of our actual training is done with our families."
Naruto 'hmm'ed in thought as he finished his second bowl of ramen.
"I guess we're pretty lucky then, none of us have any obligation's outside training so Kakashi-sensei can teach us pretty much whatever he wants."
"Oh yea, how's your team? You and Sasuke tried to kill each other yet? Managed to convince your precious Sakura to go out with you?"
Naruto laughed at his friend's playful ribbing.
"Nah not yet, but its only a matter of time! Although, she seems to have changed a lot since she we left the academy."
Kiba snorted in amusement
"It's only been month, how much could she have changed? Its probably just that you see a different side of her when you're both training."
Naruto shook his head
"I don't think so. I'm pretty sure Kakashi-sensei said something to her after our day of missions, cause she totally changed her look and attitude since then.
Sasuke hasn't been too bad, but Kakashi-sensei's been training us separately so we haven't really had a chance to fight, so that's probably why. He's still a major asshole though."
"Yea well at least your sensei knows what he's doing. I almost feel bad for Chouoji and Shikimaru though."
"Huh? Why's that?"
"Well, first off they've got Ino on their team, I bet she's been bossing them around since day one."
"Ehh, Ino isn't that bad. But maybe Shikamaru will finally grow a backbone from all the nagging."
The two friends shard a laugh at the expense of their two friends who had been the other half of the 'slacker' group.
"Fair enough, and I suppose they could do worse than Ino, she's pretty hot after all."
At Naruto's exasperated shake of his head Kiba continued.
"All jokes aside, I hear their sensei is a lazy one, leaving almost all their training to their families and relying on their old friendship to make up for teamwork exercises. The only thing they've been doing is running missions while he 'supervises'."
"Damn that sucks... wait, wouldn't he be in the same position as your sensei? Hell it might be worse cause all three of them are the only children of their clan heads unlike you and Hinata."
Kiba pondered that for a moment, before shrugging and dropping some money on the counter.
"Maybe, also the only person who would complain about that would be Ino, and she just enjoys complaining in general so we should probably take it with a grain of salt. Anyway I'm gonna head out. We should meet up more often, maybe get Shikamaru and Chouji to join us next time, get the gang together and all that."
Naruto waved as Kiba left the stall, too busy consuming his third bowl of ramen to reply.
Naruto wandered aimlessly through the forest on the outskirts of the village. The downside of having a day off quickly becoming apparent.
He was bored.
During the academy he had always been able to hang out with the other three slackers or had a prank planned and ready, but now they all had different schedules and the constant training hadn't allowed Naruto to gather the supplies nor the plans needed for a good prank. This resulted in his current predicament, walking through the forests with nothing to do.
A few minutes of walking later the nearby foliage began looking familiar, and the next thing he knew he was facing three upright logs. Apparently his distracted mind had led him directly to team seven's unofficial training ground.
Pausing to look around for a moment, Naruto wandered towards the obsidian Memorial Stone on the far side of the clearing. He had never been one for pomp and ceremony, but the gleaming monument held a certain morbid gravity to it. The hundreds of names carved into the surface of the Stone a testament to those who had paid the ultimate price so that everyone else in the village could live in peace and prosperity.
He would never admit it to anyone, but whenever he was training here he made sure to push himself to the absolute limit, feeling like each of those names were watching him. To do any less would be to spit on their sacrifice.
"I'm surprised to see you of all people here."
Naruto jumped and whirled around at the sudden voice, only to find his other male teammate and personal rival behind him. As Sasuke walked past him to stand in front of the memorial stone, he responded.
"And what is that supposed to mean?"
"I'm surprised to see you here on a day off, don't you have pranks to do or some other meaningless pointless activity to waste your time with? Although I suppose you might be planning to vandalise the stone like you did the Hokage monument."
"I would never do something so disrespectful. Those people gave their lives so that we can be here today." Naruto hissed back through clenched teeth
Apparently totally unconcerned Sasuke turned around to face Naruto.
"I wouldn't stop you, you know."
"I wouldn't stop you if you wanted to vandalise the stone."
Naruto sputtered in disbelief.
"W-what? How can you say that?! You would just let someone dishonour them like that?! You heard Kakashi-sensei, they are heroes of Konoha!"
Before he could really start going off Sasuke interrupted.
"There are no heroes here. Only thing here are two fresh genin and a shiny black rock. You think dying for your village makes you a hero?"
Naruto glared at Sasuke with narrowed eyes.
"No, I think dying while trying to make the world a better place makes you a hero."
To his surprise Sasuke just let out an amused snort as if he found the statement funny.
"Do you honestly think every one of those people died trying to make the world a better place? Most of those names were just following orders that got them killed. Either they weren't strong enough or their leaders were incompetent. And what about those who died and aren't on the stone? Are they less deserving of respect?"
"If you have a point make it, asshole." Naruto hissed through clenched teeth, and Sasuke turned back towards the stone. A few seconds passed before he spoke up again.
"Uchiha Mahida. She protected her seven year old son with her own body as he was attacked in their home. Uchiha Akihiko charged a foe who he had no chance of defeating in order to buy his elderly grandparents time to escape. Both them and many like them were great heroes, and yet none of them have been granted a place on the 'stone of heroes'.
My entire clan was wiped out, and the village thought not a single one of them were deserving of a place on this fancy piece of rock. All because they died in their homes fighting one of their own instead of in a field fighting a foreigner."
Sasuke turned back towards Naruto once again.
"Names on a shiny rock don't deserve respect. Words and promises don't deserve respect. Actions are the only things that are deserving of respect."
The silence between the two stretched on as the two boys stared at each other, Naruto's angry scowl having weakened into a frown as he understood what Sasuke was saying.
"You're wrong. You think that the Stone is pointless because some people aren't on there while others are? Maybe you're right, but I don't think so.
Sure some of those people were just following orders, perhaps they were also weak or incompetent, but they still deserve our respect. They knew that they could die, that their decision to fight would be the end of them, but they fought anyway. Those names deserve our respect not because they performed something great but because they chose to do what they thought was right.
Actions might deserve respect, but so do the intentions behind those actions."
The two faced each other in silence, each attempting to understand the other.
"So if you aren't here to vandalise the stone, why are you here?"
Naruto shrugged in response, glad to move on from the heavy discussion.
"I was bored, there was nothing to do so I guess I was gonna do some solo training. What about you?"
Silence fell again as each boy began to prepare for their warm up exercise until it was broken when Naruto had an, in his opinion, amazing idea.
"Hey asshole, want to spar for a bit? We haven't had the chance since the academy. "
Sasuke paused in his stretches before a smirk appeared on his normally apathetic features.
"I could use a moving target."
Kakashi blinked in surprise as he observed two of his students go at each other from his perch in one of the nearby trees. When had they gotten here? And wasn't it supposed to be their day off? Kakashi was pretty sure he hadn't screwed up his calender recently. It was a bit annoying considering that he was planning on reminiscing in front of the Stone, which was a lot harder to do when two teens were fighting not twenty metres away.
Suppressing a wince as Naruto was thrown onto his back by a well executed deflection and response by Sasuke, Kakashi took a closer look at the spar. Naruto was using a blunted training kunai while Sasuke was using a round wooden training dagger he had loaned him. Naruto's form was still terrible, leaving himself constantly off balance. That combined with Sasuke's greater reach, meant that Naruto was easily getting the worst of the bouts. The only thing preventing him from the whole affair being totally one sided was that Sasuke was clearly still not 100% comfortable with his weapon.
Sasuke seemed to be practising the handful of dagger fighting techniques Kakashi had been drilling into him for the past few days, and while his forms were still rusty he was able to dominate Naruto for the most part. Both were moving significantly faster than they had been during the bell test which was promising. If Sakura was at a similar level of improvement Kakashi supposed they might be ready for the next stage of their careers.
He would head to the Hokage's office after he finished watching over his students. No way he was going to miss this particular grudge match, to someone at his level of strength it was like watching two very determined toddlers duke it out. Equal parts adorable and hilarious.
Kakashi casually threw the scroll he had from hand to hand. His three students staring at him as if he had grown an extra head.
"You're late. I've been waiting here for almost fifteen minutes."
"Really?! REALLY?! You of all people are gonna complain that we were a little late? You're always late! To everything!"
Naruto's nod and Sasuke's full blown scowl showed that they were in agreement with their pink haired teammate.
"For most things sure, but I'm never late for missions."
That gave the three genin pause.
"Wait, we have a mission? I thought we agreed not to do D ranks?"
"You're not doing a D rank." Kakashi replied, tossing the scroll to Sakura. She quickly rolled it open, skimmed the details and then looked back at him.
"A C rank to the eastern coast?"
Sakura passed the scroll along to her teammates as Kakashi began speaking.
"This will be the first step in gaining that experience I was talking about. The mission is a simple supply run to an outpost we have near the coast. It is incredibly unlikely that we will encounter any hostile shinobi, but any bandits or highway-men we encounter will have to be dealt with. It will be a two day trip there and a two day trip back, so be sure to pack some food you can eat while on the move as well as some basic camping gear. We leave the from the Eastern Gate at nine, twenty minutes from now."
And with that he did his usual disappearing trick utilising a seal-less body flicker, heading towards the supply centre to pick up the items they were supposed to deliver.
Twenty minutes later Kakashi stood in front of the Eastern Gate, which consisted of a simple portcullis and the thick wooden gate. It was far less grand or ostentatious than the Southern Gate that most people travelled through which suited Kakashi just fine. They were going to be gone for less than a week so there was no need to try and make the leaving of the village a great spectacle. Just as he finished going over his equipment his students arrived.
"Excellent, you're just in time." Kakashi stated once all three had caught their breath
"You could have given us a little more time ya know, I really had to rush in order to get everything and be here on time."
"You would have had more time if you hadn't shown up late to the training grounds."
Naruto opened his mouth to debate further before closing it with an audible click. Kakashi did have a good point after all. Seeing that none of his other students had something to say he gestured towards the four small wooden boxes and piles of rope on the ground next to him.
"These are the supplies we will be taking to the outpost, each box is a standard issue Transportation Unit, known simply as a 'TU'. Each unit is 30cm long, 15 cm wide and contains four compartments which are used to hold scrolls or other small objects such as bandages. They are water-tight and can be strapped to any part of you or your equipment to allow you to move freely while carrying them.
I suggest you get very familiar with them, because you will be seeing them a lot during your shinobi career. These particular ones contain storage scrolls with everything from food to weaponry sealed inside. Everybody grab one and secure it so we can start heading out."
Nodding at the impromptu lecture, each of the genin grabbed a TU and strapped them on. Naruto and Sasuke chose to strap them against their lower backs next to their equipment pouch while Sakura secured hers on her right thigh.
Once they were all ready, Kakashi lead them through the checkpoint and out of Konoha. He couldn't help the small, genuine smile at Sakura and Naruto's awestruck expressions as they turned their heads this way and that, trying to see everything in their first ever time stepping out of the village proper. Training grounds were on the outskirts of the village, but the foliage there was dwarfed by the magnitude of the forest around them now. The giant trees were crammed so close together that it was practically a second wall around the village, this one many kilometres thick.
"Jeez, I never knew forests could grow this way." Naruto muttered in awe.
"That's because they can't, this forest isn't natural." Sakura responded, equally impressed by her surroundings."
Kakashi decided it was time for another quick lesson.
"The forest was created by the first Hokage as the Village's first line of defence. The idea was that any hostile force trying to march on Konoha would be faced with a choice. Either limit themselves to the roads, which would make them a prime target for ambushes and hit and run attacks, or spend years hacking their way through the forest. Any attempt of trying to besiege the village would be an exercise in futility as well, as any leaf-nin worth their salt would be able to jump from the village wall into the forest whenever they desired.
Unfortunately, the rise of other great hidden villages means that particular defence has become rather outdated, as any attack on a shinobi capitol would be done by other shinobi and not the large standing armies of eras past."
The group walked in silence for a few minutes before Naruto spoke up.
"Hey Kakashi-sensei, why do we need the TUs? Why not just store the scrolls in a another scroll and carry that?"
"A good question. There are two reasons actually, the first is that there is currently no way to store a dimensional seal inside another. The two space-time matrices interfere with each other which results in the corruption of the original seal's formula. This corruption throws off the Chakra Imprint Retriever, or CIR, in the second-stage seal, as the seal being sealed no longer has the original chakra imprint that it was given when created. This results in the second-stage seal's inability to retrieve the sealed seal due to it being unable to locate said seal inside of the pocket dimension."
When there was no response forthcoming Kakashi turned to see what had distracted Naruto, only to have three totally blank faces stare at him.
"...Uhhhhhhh... could you repeat that?"
Kakashi just laughed.
"Apologies, sealing theory was a hobby of Minato-sensei, some of it rubbed off on me over the years. Basically if you seal a storage scroll inside another storage scroll, you cant retrieve the first scroll any more."
"Jeez you could have just said that in the first place you know."
Kakashi just shrugged as he turned back to the road. Sakura spoke up next.
"What about the second reason?"
"You said there were two reasons."
"Ahh yes, the second reason is a lot more mundane. During the second war we only used a single scroll for transport, but occasionally something happened to either the person carrying the scroll or the scroll itself. This meant that entire supply missions could fail because one person got hit by a water technique. The TUs were created to protect the scrolls from damage and the contents of the single scroll were split among the entire squad so the supply run could continue if one TU was destroyed in a fight."
"Alright, thanks for the answer sensei"
Kakashi just waved off the thanks as he began picking up the pace.
"Just because we're doing a mission doesn't mean you get a break from training time to slack off! We have a long way to go so you can do some work on your endurance, everyone start running."
He smiled as he heard the simultaneous groans coming from behind him. He was really starting to understand why Minato-sensei had constantly messed with his own team now.
Sakura was the first one two spot the lights of the port town. Spending two days with only Kakashi and the constant bickering between Naruto and Sasuke for company was making her reach her limit, the constant random 'training exercises' Kakashi had made them do all the way here certainly didn't help either. Unfortunately Kakashi was quick to bring her spirits back down.
"Not so fast Sakura, we have to deliver the supplies to the outpost before we can spend the night in town."
With a moan of disappointment she followed Kakashi off of the main road and onto a barely visible dirt path that lead to the side. The moonlight revealed a simple farmhouse after a few minutes. Kakashi led them up to the door before knocking four times, leaving a four second pause after the first two knocks. An almost invisible rectangular compartment in the door opened up, and only once Kakashi passed the mission scroll through the hole did the door finally open.
On the other side of door was a man wearing a Konoha forehead protector and standard issue flak jacket, probably a chunin if Sakura had to guess.
"Ahh its good to see you guys! We were about to run out of fresh food, we weren't expecting an Akimichi team to stop over a few days ago and they went through most of our existing stocks."
The man chuckled as he lead team seven into the house.
"Totally worth it though, dunno how they do it but good old Akimichi cooking is the best there is!"
Kakashi smiled good-naturedly
"I can certainly agree with that, we'll just drop off these with the quartermaster, get the report from the commander and then we'll get out of your hair."
The man on gate duty waved them off as Kakashi moved towards a staircase heading underground.
"Don't worry about it, been pretty boring lately now that the summer storms are making sea travel more difficult. Less refugees coming in means a lot of us doing nothing."
Kakashi nodded as he motioned for Sakura and her teammates to follow as he descended the stair-case. Once they were a few meters underground they entered a wide concrete hallway with numerous metal doors on either side.
"This is where most of the outpost is actually located. Sleeping quarters, storage rooms, training areas, its all down here. The farmhouse above us is only used for Konoha teams that happen to be passing by but who don't want to stay at the port."
Kakashi explained as he removed his own TU and handed it to Sasuke.
"Take these to the storeroom and hand them over to the quartermaster. Its the sixth door down on your left. Once done wait upstairs for me, I'll take the commander's report and then we'll go to the port town to find a hotel and you can look around."
With that Kakashi wandered off and left the the three genin behind to find their way. The three found the door which had 'supplies' engraved into it fairly easily, but were faced with a small dilemma as they stood awkwardly in front of the metal door.
"Umm.. should we knock?"
Naruto scratched the back of his head, but before he could reply Sasuke walked forward and opened the door without a word. The door swung open without a noise revealing another concrete room with metal doors on either side, these ones labelled simply 'rations' and 'other'. The back wall was covered in a large scroll rack with dozens of scrolls of all colours and sizes. In front of the scroll-wall was a simple, organised desk with another Konoha shinobi behind it, this time a kunoichi with short hair.
Without looking up the woman motioned to a basket next to the door, above which was a clipboard attached to the wall.
"Take the scrolls out and dump them in the basket, stack the TUs next to it and then sign the form. I'll sort out the supplies later."
Sakura shared a look with her teammates before she and Naruto shrugged in unison. The three of them unstrapped their TUs and then removed the lid as Kakashi had shown them, dumping the four scrolls in each into the basket. Sakura was last to sign the form, but instead of placing her box on the stack she turned to the kunoichi behind the desk.
"Uhh.. Sorry to interrupt but can I keep the TU? I want to try something with it later."
The quartermaster looked up from her work for the first time since they had entered before smiling at her.
"Don't see why not girly, no one's going to miss a single TU. Just mention it on the form."
Her piece said, the kunoichi turned back to whatever piece of paper she was going over. Sakura signed the form before quickly following her two teammates who had already left, strapping the sturdy TU to her thigh as she walked. She got a curious look from Naruto when he noticed the box, but she motioned that she would explain later.
As the three walked back up the stairs towards the farmhouse they were surprised by Kakashi already waiting for them.
"Well, I'm glad you didn't get lost, you almost worried your poor old sensei for a moment."
Sakura just rolled her eyes at her mentor.
"We completed the mission so can we head to civilisation now? I really want to sleep in a real bed this time."
Kakashi just laughed as he led them out of the farmhouse and into the night outside
"Alright but lets head down to the town and get some dinner as a team first, it'll be my treat."
Kakashi wandered into the Hokage's office, report from the outpost in hand. He had dismissed the rest of team seven after they had passed through the gates, giving them the day off to rest after their first C rank mission. He was pretty sure Sasuke and Naruto were just going to go beat each other up for a bit instead of resting, but that wasn't his problem.
Apparently Hiruzen had been expecting him as he just finished reading and signing a paper as he walked in.
"Ahh Kakashi, how was team seven's first C rank?"
"Uneventful Hokage-sama, although there is some troubling news coming from the coast."
"Let me guess, the Land of Water refugee problem is growing worse."
At Kakashi's nod Hiruzen leaned back with a heavy sigh.
"Same reports all over the coast. We were hoping that the summer storms would completely cut them off, but it seems they are determined to flee the islands at any cost."
"Is the civil war really that bad? Normally shinobi affairs don't leak through to a nation's civilians that much. For this many refugees to be fleeing this direction..."
A voice behind Kakashi answered him as Danzo walked into the office.
"It's worse. The two factions are still deadlocked so they are starting to search for other ways to strike at each other. Yagura has started ordering attacks against anyone he believes might be aiding the rebels, and the rebels have begun attacking anyone who does business with Mizu."
Danzo walked forward until he was standing next to Kakashi.
"The situation is escalating Hiruzen, it won't be long until the battlefields start spreading over into the more populated areas. And once that happens the amount of refugees fleeing here is going to increase exponentially. We don't have the time nor manpower to vet every single one, we have to shut down our border with the Land of Waves."
Kakashi eyed the two old friends as he subtly moved back. He had no horse in this race, best not to get involved. Meanwhile Hiruzen took a long sip from his nearby teacup before replying.
"Those people are in desperate need of our help Danzo. I refuse to throw them back into the sea after they risk everything to come here seeking safety and piece."
"Well we must do something. The situation is destabilising more and more each day, something will have to give soon and you have no plan for when it does!"
Hiruzen smiled at his long time rival.
"Have you so little faith in me Danzo? I have a plan, one that I think you will agree with."
Kakashi felt a small bead of sweat form and roll down his neck as the Hokage turned to look at him
"Your timing is fortuitous Kakashi, I have a mission for you."
Sasuke sat on top of one of the three logs in their usual training ground. Naruto and Sakura were sitting on the other two, all three of them waiting for their sensei who was now almost an hour late.
Finally Kakashi appeared in a whirlwind of leaves and twigs, already holding up a hand to pre-empt any outbursts from the noisier two genin.
"I don't have much time. Training is cancelled for today, I'm going to be gone for a week or two, each of your training will be handled by someone else, be here same time tomorrow, and I'll see you when I get back. Bye."
And then he was gone, leaving the three alone again.
"...What just happened?"
Sasuke ignored his blond and pinkette teammates confusion, instead hopping off of his log. Looked like it was solo training for today. It had actually been a while since he had trained alone now that he thought about it. Ever since he had been assigned to team seven he had been training either with Kakashi or the two times he had sparred with Naruto. To his surprise training alone seemed a little... unappetizing? That seemed the best way to describe it.
He turned to his two teammates.
"I'm going to grab some stuff from my place then do some training at ground six. Join me or don't, I don't really care."
Sakura and Naruto looked at each other, before shrugging and jumping off of their own logs.
"Sure asshole, why not. S'not like we have anything else planned for today."
AN: so first off if you are confused about Sakura's new outfit, just think her shippuden look but with no gloves, elbow/knee protectors and a long single dutch braid instead of short hair. We get a look at Naruto and Sasuke's opinion on what makes a hero, more training talk, a look into other teams and team seven's first real mission. Things are starting to pick up steam now, chunin exams are looming! As always any criticisms are appreciated and the more in depth AN can be found on my profile.
Also any thoughts on the new cover? I made it real quick in GIMP and think it looks OK, but i enjoyed the simplicity of just the konoha symbol. Let me know if its a yay or nay if you review.
Chapter wordcount: 6,941