Something flew through the air.

The bar of soap bounced thrice, rattled own along a wooden railing, and then fell at the edge of the large oaken tub.

"Huh?" Naruto looked up at Jiraiya.

"Use the strong soap today, lack wit." Jiraiya walked over to the wall of the men's bath house that bordered the women's onken. He pulled out a secret plug of wood, then readied his telescope.

"I used soap, Ero-Sennin!" Naruto shouted, having difficulty judging the loudness of his voice, given that his ears were full of suds.

"Shhhh!You blasted idiot!" Jiraiya cursed, seeing the woman all scatter. "Shit."A rather large looking woman…… the bath guard…… was running towards the peep hole with a long thin pole.

"Hey, look out!" Naruto spoke too late, as Jiraiya ran into a rather large wrestler who stepped out of the big bath.

His path blocked, The Legendary Sannin had to dodge the pole as it came in through the hole and smacked here and there. One thrust went deep in the wrestler where a pole should never go.

Enraged, that man burst out through the wall to show his displeasure to the guard.

The subsequent sound of blowing whistles could be heard, as large numbers of constables were called to the scene.

"You need the strong soap today, Naruto, because I have another student coming. I received the details from Tsunade. She and I have discussed this over the past few months, and it looks like the time isfinally right." Jiraiya walked over to the large man-shaped exposure in the wall. Briefly, he could see a number of shapely posteriors disappearing into one of the women's buildings.

Beggars can't be choosers.

"I doubt some new guy is going to give a damn how I smell." Naruto tossed the soap back at his master. His sensei often talked tough and made loud demands, but that was often just for motivational reasons.

Naruto was not in the mood to be motivated.

Jiraiya sighed and shook his head.

Then he chuckled, knowing something that Naruto didn't know.

"Have it your way." Jiraiya left the bath house, but left the double doors opened. "It would have been a lot simpler just to lather up and wash off."

"Hah! Score…… Uzumaki Naruto one…… perverted old hermit ze-ro-o-o-o-o-o…." Naruto didn't see his sensei perform a summoning.

A huge frog tongue zipped into the bath…… wrapped around Naruto's naked form….. then pulled him out into the street.

Women gasped, and small children pointed. The men of the district just shook their heads.

Those two again!

"Gama-Bunta…… toss the rascal into the hottest of the hot springs…… if you please…." Jiraiya stood on top of the Boss Frog, using the height to view one of the further women's springs.

"WITH PLEASURE, JIRAIYA! I TAKE IT HE HASN'T BEEN TOO RESPECTFUL. THE FOURTH WAS NEVER LIKE THAT."

Of all the things said and done, it was that which finally shut Naruto up.

Arms crossed and jaw set, he flew through the air, landing with a great splash. He stood for a moment.

Then he shot out of the water like a rocket.

"I'm cooking, you crazy Ero-Sennin!" Sure enough, Naruto was already a deep shade of red.

"When you're all soaped up, you can come out. Don't try any tricks, chowder head. We can do this all day, if necessary. They're just might not be any meat left on your bones if you dawdle too long." Jiraiya smiled, hearing the giant Frog rumble with amusement.

"Ow-w-w-w…. but……" Naruto kept jumping out of the water, hands over his privates, embarrassed to see old ladies and perverted men eyeing him. "I don't have….." He began cursing, seeing people from the village newspaper coming. "Ah-h-h-h… any soap…."

"You mean this?" Jiraiya lost his grip of the soap, accidentally on purpose. Bending over to pick it up, he repeatedly kicked it further away. "I'll get it…… just wait……"

One middle-aged woman with a large brood of children retrieved the soap…… kicked Jiraiya in the shin…… then threw the soap to Naruto.

"That is certainly no way to behave," the woman said to her children, before marching down the street in self-righteous fashion..

"I TAKE IT YOUR NEED FOR ME IS OVER, JIRAIYA. YOU CERTAINLY HAVE YOUR HANDS FULL."

"You haven't seen anything yet," Jiraiya replied to the great amphibian, uncorking a clay pot of alcohol. "Wait until the othrr one arrives."

Gama-Bunta disappeared in a large puff of smoke.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

The small group of customers peered around racks of clothing.

Two rather flamboyant shinobi were in the middle of an argument. Those that recognized the pair just shook their heads and sighed. They could come back and shop later.

"This doesn't make any damn sense!" Naruto put the frog purse behind his back, trying to keep it away from Jiraiya. "Here! I'll give you some stinking money, so you can get drunk and impress the girls……probably not in that frigging order…… if you just let me out of here…."

He scowled, still sore from his punishment for cheeky behavior at the hot springs.

"Naruto, we don't have time for your contrariness. He're what will happen, one way or another. You're going to place the money on the counter, and then you are going to try on the new robes."

The Sennin nodded to the woman who ran the clothing shop. She still had a somewhat wary look in her eyes.

"This is long overdue. I haven't been the best influence on you. According to Tsunade. While you've been here training, most of your friends and peers have moved on to become chuunin. Their clothing has changed accordingly. Even though you won't be leading a team any time soon, you will be taking a step up. You will be my head student, now."

That had Naruto grumbling again.

"Afraid the newcomer will be betterthan you? I see. Are you afraid to deal with another Sasuke? That must be it." Jiraiya smirked.

"That kind of stuff won't work on me." Naruto grudgingly put the money bag in the woman's hand. "Hell, it might even be nice to have someone else to run your damn errands for you!"

"That's the spirit. Keep it up, and I might even by you some ramen." The Sennin shook his head 'no' when the woman held up one set of clothing. "Bring him something distinguished, like mine."

The woman just stared.

"I said might…." Naruto answered, rubbing his nose.

"So did I…." His master answered.

"By any chance, do you have a daughter, madame?" Jiraiya asked. When the women threw the clothes in the air and headed for the back of the shop, he said "I meant for my apprentice here. If he had someone to try and impress, he might be less trouble to fit."

The shop owner came out from a back room carrying a long yellow measuring tape and a small cloth pillow full of pins.

"So…… Ero-Sennin…… who is it?" Naruto made certain to speak very loudly. Most of the people in the store began backing away slowly. Some fought with each other to be the first out the door.

"SHHH!" Jiraiya slumped his shoulder and shook his head. "I told you, you would find out soon enough."

"Well, it's probably not one of my buddies, I can be certain of that. There would be no reason to send one of them. Hmmm…… is it someone from another nation? That makes sense, given the treaties being signed." Naruto rubbed his chin, then stopped. "Oh no…… not Konohamaru. That would be so bogus. Just because his grandfather was Hokage…."

Jiraiya shook his head.

"WHO THEN, DAMMIT! " Naruto's voice continued to crescendo.

"SHHHH!" This time it was the shopkeeper who shushed Naruto

"If the boy keeps on making trouble, feel free to take a little extra money!" Jiraiya sounded extremely generous. The old man looked at Naruto, his look begging the young shinobi to drive more customers away.

"Hey, but that's my f-cking money!" Naruto knocked over a clothes rack in an effort to reach his Froggie.

"Giving you a very good reason to behave, right?" Jiraiya held up three fingers.

The man removed three coins.

"But…." Naruto shook a moment, and then forced himself to calm down. He had been very edgy once he received the news of a new student, but wasn't certain why.

It had been a while since he acted this childish.

Hanging his head, he figured it was because he would have to share his master's time. That would slow down his progress. And, it would encroach upon his space.

None of this made any sense. Unless Akatsuki was after someone else, wouldn't this just hurt Naruto's chances to be strong enough?

"You know, I took the Fourth shopping for clothes once…." Jiraiya was lying. Yondaime had always been quite content to select his own wardrobe.

Naruto actually smiled. He knew Jiraiya was lying.

And, he knew that his sensei knew that he knew.

"Alright. I guess a Hokage does have to dress nicely. So, I'd better start getting used to it now." Naruto smirked. "Hey….. you…… ld man…." Naruto caught the shopkeeper's attention. "There will be some extra money for you if you can find the hairy one here a set of normal robes!"

"There's no need for that!" Jiraiya said, sounding annoyed.

Naruto swept his arm around the shop. All of the hardly souls who remained were nodding their heads.

"You're rightNaruto." The Sennin sighed. "I only need one student."

"REALLY!" The young ninja froze, and then looked at Jiraiya.

"Yes. If my new pupil works out, I'm going to mail you back to Tsunade!" Jiraiya began laughing.

"Stupid… cheap… drunken… perverted… ugly… hairy… loud… unpopular…." With each word Naruto grumbled, Jiraiya raised a finger.

The shop owner's smile got bigger and bigger.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

"Shit!"

Naruto wiped the sweat off of his brow.

"You say something, moron?" Jiraiya walked at a leisurely pace, looking like he didn't have a care in the world.

His arms were empty.

Naruto spat.

"Why didn't you rent a pack mule or something?"

"Why?" Jiraiya asked. "I have you."

Naruto said something obscene under his breath, before griping some more.

"I mean, this is so damn ridiculous. You make me take a bath more than once. You make me use the strong soap. And you make me dress in new robes." He shook his head, grunting under the weight he carried. "But, you have me lugging this crap all of the way up the mountain. I'll probably have to bathe again, and then get another set of new clothes."

Jiraiya chuckled, then stopped to rub his chin.

"Good idea!" He took a pull of water from his hip canister. Looking at his apprentice, he smiled. Naruto was piled high with provisions and necessary equipment.

"I can understand why you make me carry up the food and stuff. You're too damn lazy to do it yourself. But another sleeping bag…… blankets…… pillows…… a lot more soap…… toiletries…… a clothes line…… pots…… pans…… everything!" Naruto sore under his breath. "Why couldn't the damn new guy carry his own shit up?"

"You say something?" Jiraiya said, grinning. He took out a small piece of dried meat and began chewing.

Naruto turned bright red.

It looked like he was ready to explode.

"Save some of that energy," the Sennin put in. "You have a new latrine to dig. You can use jutsu to do it again, if you like. And, I will want you to build another cabin as well. We also need to get our training site ready." He looked deep in thought for a moment. "Yes. We will need a training circle down by the pond. That means that there will be rocks to move. And, we forgot to get enough lanterns. Night time study will continue, for everyone."

"AHHHHHHHHH-H-H-H. Ero-Sennin!"

Naruto, his view of the path impeded, stepped on a gnarled root sticking out of the path. He fell, hitting the ground hard, covered by provisions and sundry items.

Jiraiya kept walking.

"There's no time for a rest, slacker. You have work to do. Your fellow student could be here any minute."

Naruto cursed again, but then smiled. He watched as Jiraiya disappeared around the bend.

At least he would have a few minutes to himself.

This whole situation was ridiculous. But, thinking about the demon sealed behind his navel, he just shook his head and sighed.

This was nothing compared to that.

"Naruto-kun? Are you alright?"

Naruto spun, rubbing his eyes. That voice was familiar. He had heard it five or six weeks ago.

"Hinata!"

The young ninja stood there, once again dressed in a nice set of robes, and with a bag in her hand.

"Hello, N-Naruto-kun. That's a… ummm… very attractive robe." Hinata sniffed. "And, you smell v-very nice."

"Uhhh…" Naruto began picking things up. "Yeh… I practically had to beg Jiraiya to let me get cleaned up, and to spend my own money, if you believe that."

"I see." Hinata smiled.

"It's really nice that you brought more food." Naruto bit his lip. He needed to work on his people skills. "And…… you uhhhh…… came to visit." He thought back to the day that they had swapped stories. It had been pleasant. For some reason, he kept thinking back to that day. "But…… well…… you actually picked a very bad time."

"Really, Naruto-kun?" Hinata picked up a few small bags and slung them over her shoulder. Naruto's comment made her forget to mention that she didn't have food in her bag.

"You don't have to….." Naruto started. Then he grinned. "Hey, thanks Hinata. Room for a couple more?"

"NARUTO-KUN!" Hinata frowned.

"I was just kidding. Geez. You need to lighten up some, Hinata." He scowled when she dropped the bag. "That was just a figure of speech!"

Hinata just stood watching. Then she smiled and picked the bags up again.

"Why is this a bad time?" Hinata asked her question while the two of them began their trek up the mountainside.

"Well…… (grunt) ……today…… (grunt) …… my stupid master…… (spit) …… is getting a…… (grunt) …… another stupid…… (moan) …… student……"

"I see," Hinata said. "Is that a bad thing?"

"Maybe……" Naruto began wobbling. He had stepped in a loose patch of soil. Precariously balanced, he teetered over to a large drop. Hinata grabbed his robe and helped him regain his balance.

"Thanks…… Hinata…… you see…… (grunt) …… the new guy…… might want to share…… some of the snacks…… (moan) …… that you brought. As it is…… (grunt) …… you have to hide them from…… (spit) …… my stupid sensei. And…… that's just the beginning……"

"Naruto-kun?" Hinata watched as familiar landmarks went past.

This was the same trail she had hiked up before to visit Naruto.

"I have all this work to do…… (grunt) …… probably for some…… (moan) …… pimply faced pampered…… (grunt) …… primadona…… (spit) …… whose Daddy wipes his…… (grunt) ….. lily white ass for him." Naruto cursed, making Hinata blush. There were a few moments before he became coherent again. "Not only that…… (grunt) …… but I won't have as much…… (curse) …… chance for individual instruction."

"Ummm… don't you think there might be a bright side to things, Naruto-kun. Perhaps the new pupil can help you learn your jutsus, or provide you with… ummm… more company. The Hokage was probably worried about you." Hinata put both of her hands against Naruto's back and pushed with all her might.

He had started to slide backward on a cresting wave of pebbles and twigs.

"Right!" Naruto summed up all of his doubts, concerns, and frustrations with that single word.

"Well, while we walk, I have another story for you, Naruto-kun." Hinata knew that she was probably pushing things; but, at the very least, it ought to distract Naruto until he reached the top of the hill.

"Can I stop you?" Naruto winced when he said that. "Sorry, Hinata. You're only… (grunt) … trying to help… (grunt) … and I do like to hear… the sound of your…." Naruto swallowed, straightened his shoulders, and picked up speed.

Hinata smiled inside.

She knew what he had been about to say.

Switching her heavy bag to her other hand, she began her tale.

"Long ago it is said that there was an old priest who lived at a temple in this area. He taught holy practices day in and day out. The old man took great pleasure in the ancient tea ceremonies in particular. He found great satisfaction in finding old kettles and fixing them up."

"Do me a favor, will you… (grunt) … Hinata. Don't tell this… (moan) … story to my sensei. We need a … (grunt) … new kettle, and the stupid perverted… (spit) … bastard forgot to buy one on this trip. I… (grunt) … am too damn tired to… (moan)… run back down to the … (moan) … village again, today."

"OK, Naruto-kun." Hinata couldn't help herself. Looking at Naruto and listening to all of the noises he was making, she began to giggle.

"What's so freaking funny, Hinata?" Naruto sounded cross.

"Ummm… well… I have always like this story." Seeing that Naruto was not convinced, she continued with the story.

"One day, the old man bought a rusty old kettle from a shop in an infrequently traveled alley. He took it to his temple, polished it, and fixed the cracks. It was ready for tea the next day. The old man showed the kettle to his pupils. They thought the kettle was beautiful. He put some water in the kettle and placed it on the stove. The kettle started spinning around and around on the stove.

Then it started screaming,"Oh help! Ouch,ouch,ouch it's hot! Get me out!"

Naruto swore.

He thought back to the hot springs.

"Naruto-kun?" Hinata raised one eyebrow, wondering what had gotten Naruto upset this time.

"Never mind…."

Hinata bit her lip…… took a deep breath…… then forged ahead.

"The holy man and his pupils jumped away from the spinning teakettle.

Then the kettle grew a face, a tail, arms and legs. It was a tanuki! The holy man decided the tanuki teakettle was cursed and must not stay in the temple. So the next day when a tinker passed by the temple, the holy man said,"Tinker, you may have this teakettle for next to nothing."

"You are very generous. Thank you very much." And the tinker went off with the bewitched teakettle.

The tinker went home and made himself some tea with his new teakettle. Again the teakettle acted up. But before the tinker got scared the tanuki teakettle spoke. "Tinker, I have an agreement we can make. How about if you never put me on the stove, I will make you rich." Since the tinker was quite poor, he agreed.

Besides he had other kettles.

So the tinker took the tanuki off the stove and the next day they went to the village square. The teakettle was placed on a platform and then it transformed into a tanuki. The crowd cried out in surprise. The tanuki danced and sang and did marvelous tricks. The tanuki did this for many weeks. People paid a great deal of money of money to see the famous tanuki teakettle. Soon the tinker was very wealthy.

The tanuki ate his favourite rice cakes every night because of the money they made from the performances."

"Hey, Hinata?"

"Naruto-kun?"

"You got any rice cakes, today? Or more of those jam buns?"

"No, I do not, Naruto-kun. But, I can make some for you, if you like."

"Awwww…… OK…… thanks……" Naruto's stomach rumbled. He didn't pay much attention to the implication behind the girl's words.

Hinata continued.

"One night the tinker said, "Tanuki, I have more than enough money. You have made me very rich. Would you like to go back to the temple?"

The tanuki considered this. Then he answered,"Only if you make sure that they won't put me on the stove."

"I promise that I won't leave you there unless they take good care of you…… don't put you on the stove…… and most importantly, they give you your favourite rice cakes.

The tanuki was satisfied.

The next day the tinker and the tanuki went back to the temple and were greeted warmly by the holy man. The tinker explained the situation and told the holy man the requirements. The holy man said,"Tanuki, I am very sorry for putting you on the stove in the first place. If I had known what a special teakettle you are, I never would have done it. Please forgive me and become part of the temple."

"Shit! If I was the tanuki, I would have pissed on the old guy's head! The damn priest jumped to conclusions, and got rid of the kettle before he even found out what the story was!"

Hinata blushed, but smiled.

Naruto had made her point for her.

"And the tanuki teakettle was placed on a table to rest with his favourite rice cakes beside him.

He is still there now."

"Then he still has time to piss on the guy. Or, just kick his bony old ass. That's what I wish I could do to that damn Ero-Sennin! I still can't believe he is doing this to me!" Naruto grunted a few more times as he crested the final ridge.

"Do you know what the legend proves, Naruto-kun?" Hinata hoped that he wouldn't be mad at her.

"Huh?" Naruto turned away from Hinata.

Jiraiya was heading in their direction.

The old son of a bitch probably smelled the f-cking food!

"The story shows that treating others as you want to be treated pays off. I'm certain your new training partner doesn't want you to be so angry and belittling." Hinata swallowed hard, and then spoke further. "The old priest said that he wouldn't have put the tanuki on the stove if he had known, but he had automatically assumed that the magic was evil…… and the tanuki teakettle was hoaxed or cursed…… instead of thinking that maybe it could do good."

"So!" Naruto frowned.

"Well…… ummm…… the priest tried to get rid of his new acquaintance, and because of his hastiness, good things came to the tinker instead of the holy man." Hinata bowed as the Sennin walked up.

"Damn, it sure took you long enough, idiot." Jiraiya smiled, seeing the look on Naruto's face. "Oh! I meant the malcontent here, not you, Hyuuga Hinata." The old hermit returned the bow.

"What?" Naruto let all of his burden fall to the ground.

"Hmmmm. Did you realize that we need a new teakettle, boy?" Jiraiya's eyes widened, as he snapped his fingers.

"But…" Naruto was getting steamed again.

"Before you go back down the mountain, move Hinata's things into your cabin. It's her cabin now. I suggest you get busy, you'll want to build another cabin tonight." Jiraiya scratched his belly. "Unless you want to rough it." He looked up at the sky. "There'll be rain tonight!"

Hinata smiled a lopsided smile.

Naruto just stood with his mouth open.