Team 7 had just finished their second exam with Kakashi. He still wasn't really impressed with any of them. He could see their potential, yes, but at the moment they were looking to be terrible shinobi. The idea of them reaching chunin, let alone jounin was laughable, not until they got their crap together.
That meant he had to do things differently. It meant he had to do this opposite of what he'd hoped. If he tried it the original way, he'd probably end up with a dead genin or a potential missing nin. Hell, it might end up being both.
Damn him and his pride. His pride wouldn't let him sit this one out. So, with an internal resigned sigh, he sat down in front of his bickering genin.
"Alright, listen up." He didn't speak loudly, but the bit of KI lacing his words got the trio to shut up rather impressively. He really hoped he didn't have to rely on that too often. "Congratulations. You passed." They beamed, and he quite happily burst their bubble. "But you still suck." His eye roved over them flatly. "Majorly."
Their reactions were predictable, and he let them stew a moment before interrupting them before they could build up any steam. "Shut up." KI was liberally used this time as well. It still worked wonders. Kami-sama, when he needed blissful silence, he would abuse this. He already knew he would. "I know what all of your flaws are. They're plain as day. And sadly, you won't be able to advance in skill or rank unless you know and overcome them." He looked at all of them pointedly. "Did you not learn a single thing during this test? Did you really fail to grasp all I was trying to teach you?" His frown went unseen beneath his mask, but his lone eye was sharp with disapproval. "I am disappointed. I was really hoping better from you."
There were two subtle winces and one large one. He had to bite back another sigh. "Naruto, what did I teach you within the first few minutes of our test?"
Naruto squinted at him, scowl firmly in place. "T' look underneath?"
"Underneath the underneath," corrected Kakashi. "As a ninja, it should be part of your daily mantra to expect everything to have multiple layers of deception. You should never take anything at face value or for granted." He looked meaningfully at his students. "Everything."
Sasuke looked furious, Naruto instantly became guarded even though his expression and body didn't move, and Sakura looked uneasy.
He gave them a small eye smile. "That also leads nicely to my second point. Because everything is deceptive, when you take measures to approach and handle them, every action you should take should be overkill."
The trio blinked.
"What?" Naruto was the only one who dared speak, but all of them were clearly befuddled.
"If you have a mission to sneak into an enemy stronghold to steal intel, you should be invisible. Period. Invisible by sight, sound, scent, and chakra. I don't care if it looks so easy that a new Academy student could do it, you treat it like it is something so dangerously out of your league it's ridiculous. If you meet an opponent, always treat them as if they are S rank criminals who would do anything and can do anything to kill you in less than a heartbeat. If you down an opponent, you will once again, treat them like an S rank criminal and do everything even remotely feasible to ensure they are completely incapacitated, be that either by death or binding them for interrogation." He looked at them sharply. "Am I clear?"
When none of them immediately spoke up, his barked it out loudly again. "IS THAT CLEAR?!"
"Yes Sensei!" Chorused the three genin, startled and a bit alarmed.
"Good." He eye smiled. "Now, since we've addressed two of my main issues with your misconceptions about being a shinobi, let's focus on the other main one. Deception is the core aspect of shinobi life, period. Understanding this, it means you should all be incorporating it into your daily lives as well." He clapped his hands, making them flinch. "So! Here's what we're going to do. This," he waved a hand between them, "is your only safe zone. When we are safely training and are in a secure area, I will allow you to drop all pretense and be yourselves."
"Wha-" began Naruto, only for Kakashi to cut him off.
"Everywhere else, you will be putting up a front." He pinned them with a sharp stare. "Everywhere."
Sakura and Naruto swallowed thickly while Sasuke shifted slightly uneasily.
Kakashi eye smiled again. "An example? Look at me. Your first impression of me was rather low, wasn't it? I seemed lazy and inept. Pulling out my book also makes me look like a distracted pervert."
The genin looked like they got caught stealing a cookie from the cookie jar. Internally, Kakashi cackled.
"However, I am a highly skilled and deadly shinobi. I have an impressive mission list and have a nice reward in the bingo book. Misdirection and deception are everything. Even with my bingo book listing, a lot of foes don't take me seriously once they meet me in person. Why? Because of the persona I present." He held out his hands.
"So, before we do anything further as a team, we're going to break some of your bad habits and start forming new ones. First one, we're a team. We're going to sit here and each one of us is going to reintroduce ourselves. This time, however, we're going to tell our proper histories, including the deep dark secrets no one wants to share."
When they looked like protesting, Kakashi blasted them with intense KI. "This isn't up for debate."
If Kakashi was being honest, he hated this idea as much as his students. It hurt to revisit the past. But he would be damned if they were going to keep playing this game of avoidance and dig themselves into deeper holes than they already were. So, despite his misgivings and the guilt that speared him ruthlessly, Kakashi shared his past. All the nitty gritty, other than Naruto's parentage, was shared. His father, his team, Obito, everything. He even showed them his Sharingan.
He made Sakura go next. He forced her to talk about her being a target for bullies, her reasons for bullying Naruto, and her obsession over Sasuke. He even got a shock to find out she had a weird version of split personality. When she finished, looking quite subdued and embarrassed, Kakashi turned to Sasuke.
Sasuke had to be threatened ruthlessly, and only through nearly a literal pulling of teeth, Sasuke began spitting out his past with absolute venom. Kakashi just sat on a hog tied Sasuke and smiled the entire time, still holding the pair of pliers he had threatened Sasuke with. The other two looked suitably horrified by Sasuke's tragic past, and as expected, threw their lot in with Sasuke when he went after Itachi. Kakashi nipped that in the bud when he asked if they were all that stupid. He pointed out again that deception was everything, and that the whole Massacre seemed too staged. He told them the first thing they had to do, if they were serious about their quest, was to find out as much of the proper truth as they could and present it to him before he okayed their crusade.
Naruto looked ill. Once the pause of budding camaraderie evaporated, he realized that it was his turn. Kakashi felt bone weary looking at the anger and fear that warred in the boys eyes, despite the boy trying to squint to hide it. But, Kakashi had no mercy. He gave the boy a pointed look, and slowly, Naruto spoke in the softest voice any had ever heard him use. As he lay out his past while staring at his hands ripping up the grass before him viciously, Kakashi watched Sasuke and Sakura truly begin to realize how messed up and challenging Naruto's life had been. Naruto still choked up over the Kyuubi. It took him several false starts, but by the end of it, the stunned silence was broken by a shamefaced Sakura and a subtle compassionate looking Sasuke.
In the end, Kakashi had to console his tearful genin and hope that his weird therapy session actually did some good. He did decide that it probably wasn't a good idea to let them go home tonight. Sitting in the silence would get to them. So, he made the night into an impromptu camping lesson. He instructed his team to grab their survival gear and meet him back here in two hours.
Naruto was the first to question it. "Your version or ours of two hours?"
Sakura snickered and Sasuke snorted. Kakashi eye smiled.
"Well done. As a reward, it will be your version today."
All three looked relieved as they each departed. As he watched their backs, he was gratified to see that they left together, unconsciously sticking close. He would fix that tomorrow, and remind them they couldn't do that once they left the training field. But for today…
Well, today, it felt like a flicker of hope. And, with a genuine hidden smile, Kakashi shunshined to the Hokage's office, so late that he was sure that everyone had already left hours ago, if he was to judge the fact the sun was starting to set.
Meh, it was the fault of a broken mirror and having to circumvent all the bad luck he would've had if he didn't take proper preventative measures.
Training started bright and early the next day.
"Sasuke, you're currently the most advanced skill wise. You will be teaching the other two everything you know."
Sasuke looked peeved. "Why? How is that going to help me?"
"One, as they grow, you grow. Two, if all three of you don't learn the lesson I set you to, none of you advance to the next. We're a team. We train like it, we live like it." Kakashi smiled. "Besides, by teaching them, you will come to understand what you know even better." He chuckled when Sasuke looked ready to protest again. "If you don't believe me, prove it. In one month, if you haven't gotten any better in your techniques by teaching them, I will let you stop. However, if you're wrong, you fulfill your new role dutifully, without complaint, and you will also go out of your way to learn new things to bring back and teach them."
Kakashi ignored Sasuke's irritable scowl and turned to Sakura. "You, Sakura, are going to learn and teach the boys about the body." He almost laughed at her look of horror. "You are going to study medical scrolls and learn how the body works inside and out. You will bring that knowledge and share it with the team. I want everyone to understand what each muscle group is, the major tendons, main arteries, and pressure points. I want all of you to be able to target any of these at any time. Sasuke will be teaching you how to wield sebon, shuriken, and kunai. Also Sakura, you will teach both your teammates basic first aid. I want you all able to set bones, apply proper splints and bandages, etcetera. It can save your lives."
Kakashi turned to Naruto. The boy looked both excited and nervous, and Kakashi had to resist ruffling his hair. "Naruto, you have a unique insight on people. There are a few things you've misunderstood, but overall, you're quite intuitive about people and their emotions. So, I want you to train Sasuke and Sakura about reading people. To better do this, I want you to make a handful of Kage-bunshin and have them hide in different locations around the village. Their job is to observe people as they go about their business. If someone looks suspicious or interesting, or has an expression you can't identify, have the clone follow them until they can identify it. This is to be a daily occurrence. Every day you wake up, make about five to ten clones and have them hide in the village. You will start with civilians. Your goal is to learn these things while not being caught. As you improve, I will up the challenge to genin, and then to chunin, and so on."
Naruto frowned. "But, how will I know what they do? What if they get caught before they can come tell me what they've learned?"
Kakashi blinked. "You missed the part about memory transfer, didn't you?"
Kakashi sighed. "Naruto, one of the second major reasons kage-bunshin is a forbidden jutsu is because of the fact what a clone learns throughout their existence is transferred back to the creator when the clone is dismissed or destroyed. Meaning, you have a highly useful ability to scout and steal information without ever putting yourself in danger."
Naruto's eyes were huge before a determinedly wicked gleam lit in them. Kakashi could swear the boy was silently cackling to himself. It made the older man shudder.
"Right!" He clapped his hands. "One last thing. As a team, you're all going to be practicing stealth. In order to do this, I have purchased three appropriate uniforms in order to help you improve. Stealth is going to be our biggest area of focus. If the enemy doesn't know you're there, you've pretty much either already won or gotten a huge advantage against them. We'll start with stealth training for now, and after that, Sasuke will take over to train you in the three main weapons I mentioned before." He pulled out a scroll and unsealed the uniforms he had spoken about.
"No way in hell!" Naruto burst, looking horrified.
Sasuke fully agreed with him, while Sakura simply sneered.
Kakashi preened under their reactions. "Here you are! One for each of you!" He handed them to each of his students and internally cackled as they all acted like he was handing them venomous snakes. "Now, hurry up and put them on! We only have so much time before we move on to the next bit of training!" He cheerfully clapped his hands in encouragement.
"It's bright fluorescent pink!" Wailed Naruto. "No way in hell! Not on your life!"
"Naruto's orange jacket is less of an eyesore!" Agreed Sakura.
"Hey!" Protested Naruto.
Sasuke merely grunted in agreement, hand twitching with the intent to incinerate the terrible uniform with a Great Fireball.
Kakashi eye smiled, gleefully dosing them with KI. "Put them on. If you can get the item on this map without getting caught, you pass this lesson. If you get caught, you start from the training ground and do it again until you either get it right or time runs out." He chuckled menacingly as he tossed a scroll at their feet. "Oh, and just so you know, you will repeat this lesson until you've reached the proficiency I expect out of you."
Sakura looked ill, Sasuke looked murderous, and Naruto looked like someone just stole his freshly prepared ramen.
'Ah', thought Kakashi, 'today is looking to be a pretty awesome day too.'
Ino shrieked. "Sasuke! What are you wearing?!"
"Tch!" Sasuke pivoted sharply and headed back towards training ground 7. Naruto and Sakura didn't dare breath, lest Ino see them as well. Neither wanted the blond gossip to have such juicy info. They valiantly ignored the fact half the village had probably seen them already and Ino's gossip would be old news at this rate.
When Ino's horrified ranting voice was long since out of range, only then did Naruto and Sakura break their cover and hightail it back to the training grounds. Sasuke would be pissed they hadn't followed immediately, but he wouldn't say anything. He'd done the exact same thing when Sakura had hit Naruto and gotten the two of them spotted by a rather beautiful tomato vendor.
"Well, that was a delightful morning of training!" Kakashi eye smiled at his genin, who glared at him murderously. He didn't care. He happily took pictures of them all day, especially the more comedic times they'd gotten caught. 'Priceless!' "Sasuke, you're up!" He tossed the raven haired youth three scrolls. "This should have all you need!"
Sasuke huffed but unsealed the kunai first. "Grab ten each." He moved over to the training logs and the straw dummy that Kakashi had set up when they'd been attempting stealth.
When Sakura and Naruto stood about twenty paces away, Sasuke pointed to the straw dummies torso. "I remember your counts for throwing kunai from the Academy. We'll start there. Aim for the torso. It's the biggest area to hit."
'Hey! Why'd you say it like that?!" Interrupted Naruto.
Sasuke barely suppressed a sneer. "Because neither of you are good enough yet for more precise throws. Once your aim improves, the target area will change." He moved to stand beside them and gestured Sakura forward. "You go first."
She took a determined stance, shifted, and threw.
She completely missed.
Sasuke grit his teeth, counted to ten, and exhaled slowly. "You're not flicking your wrist correctly. Do it again."
The next two hours were a steady grind on Sasuke's patience. Twice he nearly "accidentally" stabbed his teammates.
… Maybe make that three.
Day three, Naruto had a peculiar expression on his face.
"I'm confused about somethin'."
"Oh?" Kakashi gave him a small head tilt to continue.
"Well," Naruto scratched his head. "I was watching, and well," he grimaced, "how come they don't get rejected?"
Blank stares from the rest of the team.
"Can you…explain further?"
Naruto frowned. "Why aren't they getting hit or turned down when they ask someone else on a date? They just say yes…the first time."
Kakashi was a little horrified that Naruto truly seemed serious about his question. For a moment he could only stare at the blond, and both Sakura and Sasuke were doing the same.
"Naruto…" Kakashi grasped for words. "Do you know what the difference between a crush and love is?"
Naruto just tilted his head in confusion. "Difference? Aren't they the same?"
Kakashi really wished Kushina or Minato were here to do this. He really, really….REALLY didn't want to have this talk. "There's a big difference. A crush is when you admire someone for a few of their traits. You don't really know that person, and you are attracted to the idea of them. It is usually superficial. Follow me so far?"
Naruto frowned. "Sorta?"
"Um yes, well love is...love is more profound." Kakashi internally winced at the pathetic attempt, and Naruto's confused expression only deepened. "Love is stronger than a crush, more meaningful. Love is when you deeply care about a person, faults and all. When you love someone, you know they aren't perfect. You know all their hopes, dreams, and biggest fears. But, despite all their shortcomings, you still love them completely, for being exactly who they are, flaws and all. Love is best when it is reciprocated," a quick glance at Naruto's expression and he clarified, "when love is returned equally."
Naruto frowned at the grass, visibly turning things over in his head. "So...when you have a crush, it's...more...shallow?" He grimaced at the wording, but he really couldn't find anything else that fit. "And when you love someone, it's...deeper?"
"In essence, yes." Kakashi scratched his cheek through his mask, feeling incredibly awkward about this whole topic.
"So, when you have a crush on someone, it's normal to get rejected?"
"Well, not all the time." Kakashi hummed. "Sometimes a crush can develop into love."
"So it's okay to keep asking so it can turn into love?"
Kakashi blinked. "No, no it's not. That only serves to irritate the person being asked and insults them."
Naruto looked startled. "Insult them?!"
"Naruto, if a person rejects you after you ask them on a date, it's very rude to keep pestering them. Not only that, you're insulting them because you're clearly not respecting their feelings. By ignoring their rejection you are being demeaning by implying that your feelings are more important than theirs."
Naruto looked like someone just punched him the gut. Kakashi was surprised that Sakura seemed to catch on to the lesson by turning a very unhealthy green color.
Sasuke looked like he was trying not to hope too much that Sakura was taking the conversation to heart and wouldn't be pestering him for dates anymore. The raven haired boy was also looking at him with something akin to hero worship.
Such a look did not fit the emo boys face. It was disturbing and Kakashi wished someone like Kurenai had given Sakura this talk, not him.
Kakashi cleared his throat to knock everyone out of their weird funk. "Naruto, if you ask someone on a date, only ask once. If they reject you, move on. If they end up changing their mind later down the road, they already know you're interested and can come find you to ask you instead. Understand?"
Naruto nodded vigorously. "Thanks Kakashi-Sensei!"
Sakura sneezed, startling the poor woman she'd been discreetly following. A rather impressive feat considering Sakura's bright pink attire. Twin groans from either side of her sent the poor civilian screaming down the road about ninja stalking her.
Sakura looked sheepishly at Sasuke and Naruto as they shambled out of their respective hiding spots. "Sorry."
Naruto sighed. "We were so close…"
Sasuke just grunted and started heading back towards the training grounds.
"Sakura?" Naruto shifted uneasily, hands hidden behind his back. She blinked. Both of Naruto's teammates were still a bit surprised that Naruto's natural state of loudness was actually quite soft. His more boisterous personality had, to Kakashi's glee, been a complete and utter front. All of them, Kakashi included, were very happy the blond was more subdued now when they were training out of sight. It made for a more pleasant atmosphere to focus. "I wanted to… apologize. I didn't realize I was being rude when I kept asking you out. I'm sorry." He winced. "You're amazing and I really wanted a chance to see more of that." He gave her a faint smile. "But I got lucky. We're on a team. That's awesome. So…as an apology, here." He thrust a potted plant into her startled hands. "It's supposed to be good for medicinal purposes." He scratched behind his head. "It wasn't quite big enough to give to you last week after I realized how big of an idiot I'd been."
The way he said that made her pause. "You...grew this?"
He nodded, beaming at her. "Yeah! I've had this little guy for a while." He gave it a wistful look. "Before the orphanage kicked me out, one of the caretakers made me work in the garden a lot. I really liked it, even though I had to pretend to hate it or he wouldn't have let me do it anymore."
Sakura's eyes were suspiciously moist. "Thanks Naruto." Her voice was a little choked up too. She cleared her throat. "Maybe... maybe instead of ya' know." She winced, still unable to actually say 'date' to the very boy she'd loathed asking her for the past couple years. "Maybe we could be friends instead?"
His blue eyes widened comically, and for the first time, his exuberance wasn't met with a wince as he jumped and fist pumped. Instead, Sakura laughed. Kakashi, standing unobtrusively to the side with Sasuke, smiled beneath his mask. Sasuke felt a weird wiggle in his gut. He wasn't sure what it meant, but it bothered him until Kakashi stole their attention.
"Well, why don't you put your new gift somewhere safe Sakura, and we'll get back to the tree climbing we were doing yesterday."
She nodded sharply, dashing to their gathered pile of gear by the Memorial Stone, using that moment to discreetly wipe at her eyes. Having a friend like Naruto... that would be nice. She smiled softly to herself as she gently fingered one of the leaves of the plant.
"Kakashi-Sensei." Sasuke's eyes were sharp. "How feasible is it to find a doppelganger for a cat?" His face was covered in quite an impressive display of red angry slashes. The cat carrier chained to the ground was filled with hissing that was randomly interrupted by short yowls.
Kakashi winced internally. "To be honest, it wouldn't do any good."
Sakura and Naruto were hovering a safe distance away from their teammate. The raven haired boy's KI was actually a little impressive, and Kakashi preened a bit.
"The Daimyo's wife is...not gentle when handling the target." Kakashi's eyes flick to the glowing eyes in the cat carrier. "You aren't the first to try that trick. The Third's genin team did it after their first run in with the beast. However, because of the way the woman, and her predecessor, handles them, all of the cats end up gaining this vicious notoriety." He shrugged. "Unless you find a way to change her habits, genin will continue to be subjected to returning it to its owner."
The boy silently pondered that a moment before he looked up at Kakashi solemnly. "I need my Sharingan."
Kakashi blinked. "Pardon?"
"If I can set a permanent layered genjutsu, I can change her behavior," the boy said flatly.
Kakashi felt his jaw drop open a bit in shock. That was actually...a rather brutal but ingenious solution. "Maybe we can accomplish both." Kakashi eye smiled. "We'll have to find Kurenai. She's the village's leading genjutsu mistress." Kakashi grinned. "Also, speaking of illusions, I want each of you to start practicing it by using henge around town until someone dispels it or you run out of chakra."
Kakashi performed the technique, turning into a chibi version of himself. "It's a very useful skill, and you should all be more than proficient with it by the time we take any serious missions out of the village."
Naruto frowned, squinting at Kakashi a good ten seconds before something clicked. He gasped sharply and points an accusing finger up where Kakashi's face normally sits. "You are a pervert! This just proves it!"
Kakashi and his teammates blink at him. "What?"
"If it's just an illusion, when you turn into a kid, you're getting everyone to stare at your crotch!" accused Naruto.
A full beat of silence followed before a puff of smoke reveals the proper sized Kakashi. "Right, new rule. All transformations will be height appropriate."
Sasuke smothered a snicker while Sakura looked indecisive whether she wanted to rage at everyone for the oversight or thank Kakashi for the new rule.
"My WHAT goes WHERE?!" squealed Naruto, making a large flock of birds take off from the surrounding area.
Kakashi chuckled to himself and turns another page, glad he'd done the underhanded thing and let Sakura ensure that all of his genin knew the "birds and the bees" bit. He'd have to be extra alert, however. He was pretty sure she was going to try and murder him for it afterwards.
Thirty minutes later, his predictions proved correct. His genin were all beat red as they shambled into the clearing he'd been waiting for them. Sasuke and Naruto both appear traumatized. However, as soon as Sakura laid eyes on him, KI bursts from her in an almost terrifying fashion. He actually got nervous.
"Taijutsu practice!" he said a little too swiftly. He clapped and then points at Sasuke. "You and Sakura are going to spar first! I'll walk Naruto through his stances again to make sure he's not slipping out of his new style." He eye smiled as he quickly guides Naruto away from his other two genin. Sasuke gaped at him in utter betrayal as Sakura let out a threatening snarl seconds before she launched herself at the only available target.
'He'll be fine', Kakashi mentally insisted. 'Sasuke is the most talented of the three at Taijutsu. Sakura will just give him a better challenge today.'
He ignored the sound of Sasuke's rather terrified yelp when Sakura audibly breaks something with an impressive snap behind them.
Kakashi quickened his pace, almost bodily shoving Naruto to move faster.
'They'll be fine', Kakashi mentally repeated.
Sakura shyly handed Sasuke a container. "Tomato salad," she blurted quickly at his wary look. She grimaced. "As an apology, for yesterday." She ducked her head. "And...and for pestering you for dates." She glanced around them. "I know the food here sucks." She wrinkled her nose at the sterile smell of the hospital. Not only had she spent her fair share of time here after Kakashi's more grueling sessions, but he also had her sign up to volunteer sixteen hours a week.
Sakura was mortified, and a bit prideful if she were honest, about managing to send Sasuke to the hospital from a taijutsu spar. Kakashi had explained that she'd used her chakra unconsciously to enhance her strength when she'd gotten angry. He also explained that she was going to start new training to improve it, mentioning offhandedly that it was something Tsunade was famous for.
Sasuke opened the container and felt an odd warmth when he realized it was indeed a tomato salad, with all the ingredients he prefered too. He looked up to find Sakura fidgeting nervously, clearly expecting him to say something nasty. He winced slightly. He was getting better, but he still said mean things without thinking. He was tired of seeing his teammates waiting for his more horrid remarks. It made him feel like he was kicking puppies.
He was a little surprised she managed to wiggle the date comment in. He hadn't really expected her to really let go of her infatuation with him. If she stopped pestering him, it would be a massive improvement, but he had valiantly kept the hope of it truly happening from growing too big. He couldn't handle it if said hope was ruthlessly dashed.
This was a pleasant change. He knew she wouldn't put any further effort into the apology. The honest regret and self loathing in her eyes spoke volumes. He also knew she didn't want it to seem like a cop out, an insincere replication of Naruto's example. She was barely holding herself together, hoping he was as observant as usual and could pick up on the truth and full emotion behind her simple, almost belated, apology. Really, there was a lot she was not saying, but the way she was saying it spoke the loudest.
He felt the small smile pull at his lips, and he couldn't quite force himself to suppress it. He smiled a little more when she met his gaze and saw his response there and her shoulders visibly relaxed and her smile less forced. "Thanks," he said. He grabbed the supplied chopsticks. "The food here does suck." Sasuke was thankful that Naruto had taught them so much about the subtleties of expressions. He didn't like talking, and he felt better he could express himself just fine this way. It was nice when he didn't have to say anything at all and his teammates still understood him.
He...he was really glad he got put on Team 7. He'd never say it aloud, but he was trying hard to show them without having to.
"Hello my cute little genin!" cheered Kakashi.
As was the norm, his genin stopped whatever personal training they were engaged in while waiting for him. They'd, thankfully, been quick on the uptake. The two to three hours he was late were to be used for personal training, things he knew they wanted to focus on that they could do on their own.
"Kakashi-sensei," greeted the trio.
"Good news! We're going to be working on traps today and the various kinds there are!" He grinned wickedly. "To start, you're going to, in essence, prank people." Kakashi wasn't at all surprised that Sakura and Sasuke immediately looked to Naruto. "The trick," Kakashi continued, "is to of course, have maximum efficiency and effect. It takes subtly, creativity, and clever application to hit the target you want to and not accidentally catch someone else. This is where we are going to start focusing your talents on your fellow comrades and why we are doing so in the form of pranking. Pranking is basically the safe version of lethal traps." He grinned. "And if you get caught, that means your stealth and evasion skills still need work."
His genin grimaced, clearly recalling the bright pink monstrosities they still had to wear.
"Also," he said, drawing their attention again, "I have a test for you. If you accomplish it, I'll ask the hokage for a C-rank mission." Kakashi almost cooed at their adorable looks of eager excitement. "The challenge is, to trick one of my fellow jounin."
"How so?" Naruto asked cautiously.
Kakashi shrugged. "If you can pull a fast one on a jounin, with me as witness, and the jounin doesn't catch on, you pass."
The three exchanged pensive looks.
Sasuke's eyes narrowed in determination. "Deal."
Kakashi clapped. "Perfect! Now, lets begin today's lesson!"
Iruka spluttered as an entire gallon of paint dropped on his head. As he was trying to wipe it from his eyes, a faint hissing noise drew his attention. He froze, turning just in time to see a timed paper tag finish burning and the air was suddenly full of feathers and glitter.
Iruka whirled, righteous anger filling him as he stepped forward to find the culprit.
Only to hear the very unfortunate sound of a trip wire going off and an unhealthy amount of eggs bombarded him from behind.
Iruka was cursing too loudly to hear the faint clicking sound nearby.
Sasuke, Sakura, and Naruto were trembling with barely contained mirth. Sakura pocketed the camera that they used as proof to show Kakashi their success. All three of them were well aware that the silver haired jounin would use it gleefully as blackmail when the need arose. He'd already conned someone called Anko into teaching them all about the various types of poisons and how to tell the differences in how they affected the body. It was even more amusing that she clearly wasn't sure if Kakashi had pranked her or if some other jounin did.
Naruto was still proud of that one. Kakashi had deemed it too challenging for them yet to target her, and Naruto was bound and determined to prove him wrong. In payment of succeeding, Kakashi had to teach them a new jutsu.
Naruto, being as devious as he was with pranks and frightening insightful considering the difficulty of the odd mission, had chosen to prank Anko's favorite food. He'd noticed the pattern when his clones were out and about hidden through the village. Anko always made repeated stops at the dango shop. It was on par with his visits to Ichiraku's. Hence, she would let her guard down because she never took the time to check her food. She'd been going there for too long. It was a prime way to target her.
This also had the added benefit of creating a paranoia about eating food that they themselves didn't make. Team 7 now consistently, and discreetly, checked their food for toxins and poisons whenever they ate out. Naruto ended up having to do it a lot more than the other two for obvious reasons.
Sasuke tapped his teammates on the shoulder and gestured at his watch.
It was time to meet Kakashi. The trio left without Iruka even realizing they'd been there.
"Ah, perfect! Kurenai!" Kakashi called, waving her over.
Said woman paused, turning to look at the silver haired jounin. Her team turned with her. "Kakashi?"
Said man smiled. "This is perfect timing. One of my students had a wonderful suggestion for a genjutsu, and I was hoping that you would be willing to assist."
Kurenai couldn't help but lift a single eyebrow as Kakashi and his genin joined her and her team. Kakashi was a weird mystery she still wasn't quite sure how to deal with. This just added to his oddness, for he'd never come to her for anything at all in the past. He was a notorious prodigy, and him asking for help was like expecting hell to freeze over.
"What did they have in mind?" she asked, partially wary.
"Sasuke?" Kakashi nudged the boy.
Sasuke grunted, shooting the man a glare before stepping forward. "I wanted to know about layering genjutsu and if you can make a genjutsu permanent."
Kurenai blinked. That was certainly a loaded request. It took her a second before she started breaking down the concept of genjutsu and explaining the theories of how it worked and the various ways they could be triggered.
The pink haired one looked like she was absorbing everything with a faint glimmer of awe, eyes darting with mortifying consistency to the raven haired boy she was speaking to. The blond looked dazed and a bit bored.
When Kurenai finally wound down, even though she'd barely scratched the surface of her knowledge, both teams looked equally restless.
"Um...if genjutsu is all an illusion," began the blond one, sounding completely confused. "Does that make henge a genjutsu too?"
Kurenai couldn't help smiling a bit, missing the curious flicker of Kakashi's subtle glance at the blond. "No. They are completely different. Genjutsu target peoples perceptions, while henge just puts a bubble of chakra around your body to change your image. They only share one way of disrupting them, and that is to cause a fluctuation in your chakra." At his still confused look, she smiled a bit more. "Look, this is a genjutsu."
She put her hands together and cast a very simple genjutsu, one that made it look like it was getting dark out already. His teammates broke out of it fairly quickly, but she had to assist him. When he was free of it, he blinked at the bright sky in shock and a bit of awe. She felt her shoulders square a bit in pride.
"And, if you pay attention, you can see how different the henge is." She turned into an exact replica of the blond.
Instead of getting the spark of understanding she was expecting, the blond genin gasped and pointed an accusing finger at where her head actually was supposed to be.
"You're a pervert!" he screamed. "Don't come near me!" he wailed, scrambling away from her like she was going to suddenly attack him, his antics drawing quite the attention from passersby.
She was absolutely flabbergasted when Sasuke looked equally terrified and backpedaled with the blond.
The pink haired girl looked absolutely scandalized. "And I looked up to you," she spat in disgust. "You shouldn't do that to Sasuke!"
Kakashi looked downright furious. "I'm incredibly disappointed in you, Kurenai. Your reputation about hating perverts is well known. It shocks me that it appears it was just a front. Stay away from my genin until you can control yourself."
Kurenai and her team gaped at them in absolute stunned disbelief. "Wh-wh-what are you talking about?!" she gasped at last as she watched him gather his team and begin walking away quickly.
He shot her a disgusted look over his shoulder. "Henge is an Illusion." His eye glanced meaningfully where her head was supposed to be before making a very clearly point to look at her illusions lower abdomen. "Come on team, I'll buy everyone lunch to...forget what just happened."
As they walked away, the genin trembling in horror, Kurenai felt the mortification of dawning understanding filter through her shock. Her henge dropped instantly. She felt positively ill.
Kiba grunted. "I don't get it! What are they going on about?!"
Hinata spluttered, beat red, and ducked into her jacket, inching slightly away from Kurenai. Shino's expression was hidden, but he too took a subtle step away from his mentor.
Kurenai just stared at the Inuzuka. She couldn't even form a coherent thought, let alone a verbal sentence.
Unbeknownst to her, Team 7 was shaking with barely concealed laughter as they walked out of sight. Kakashi squeezed Naruto's shoulder and shot him a proud smile.
"That was brilliant, Naruto. I'm very proud of you." His eye roved over his other two genin. "And you two were right on que. Well done." He steered them towards the mission office. "It seems like I owe you three a C-rank."
Sasuke and Sakura both gave the blond a discreet fistbump.
That had to be the best unplanned prank they'd ever pull.
Team 7 rocked.