Sasuke was willing to bet it was all Naruto's fault, mostly because the blonde was much more notorious for stupid acts like this than his students.
For a moment, he contemplated the dancing flames, unsure of what he was supposed to do. He knew he should put it out, perhaps with some sort of jutsu, but his mind had long ago blanked out on what would be good to use against this cheerful little fire. After all, his specialty was creating fire, not putting it out.
The fire was getting vicious now, obviously wanting to explode into something much more spectacular. He was half surprised that it hadn't done that in the first place—curtains were notorious for going up in flames at second-long intervals, but these curtains seemed to be putting up a damn good fight. It didn't look like they would last much longer, though.
Sasuke sighed and looked around the room for something to put the fire out. Clothing would just make the problem worse, same with posters, and the chair would probably have no effect at all. He frowned and grabbed the vase that had been sitting to his left the entire time, and doused the fire out.
Well, that was a lot easier than he thought it was going to be. Scowling, he shoved his hands in his pockets and turned around, stomping out of Inari's room. He should have known the brat would create havoc in the home that wasn't his—didn't he know anything about being a proper guest?
And how the hell did he manage to light the curtains on fire?
Chapter One: People Are Strange
"I think I'm catching up to you, boss."
Konohamaru was sitting on top of Inari's bed, legs crossed and hands resting on his knees. He didn't know the kid who owned the room, but had heard a lot about him—the cry-baby, the brat, the kid who wore that tasteless hat. He was also able to deduce some vital information about this Inari kid through his room—he had to be boring. There was one poster on the wall, and a small pile of clothing off to the side, all neatly folded.
Naruto, who was undoubtedly mulling over the same things, turned and frowned at Konohamaru. "Yeah right! What the hell makes you think that?"
"I can control my chakra better," Konohamaru smugly said.
"Oh yeah!" Those were fighting words, if Naruto didn't know any better. "Prove it!"
Konohamaru smiled, then pushed himself to his feet. He pulled a candle out of his back pocket and placed it on Inari's desk, and strolled back to where he had been sitting before. With graceful ease, he flicked a bit of chakra to the candle, lighting it in a small burst of flame.
"I can do that!" insisted Naruto, sitting heavily beside Konohamaru. With an air of concentration, he tried putting out the candle with a wave of chakra.
Balls of flaming wax flew in all directions and mostly went out where they landed, but a couple caught to the curtains and stuck, setting the coarse material on fire. Konohamaru and Naruto stared in horrified wonder at the flames, and then looked at each other for a long moment.
"I think I hear Udon calling," Naruto said. Konohamaru nodded, and they ran out of the room.
"Today we're going to Wave Country."
"What for?" Moegi asked, buffing her nails against her shirt. She wasn't too interested in the prospect of leaving for a mission, as her family traveled often.
"You could use the change of pace," Naruto said, idly. Konohamaru and Udon were crouched before Naruto, looking weary and wary.
"Considering the fact that you've had us moving, nonstop, from day one," Udon said in his normally quiet voice, "I think a change of pace would be good."
"I can't believe I'm stuck with Naruto." Konohamaru grumbled. He couldn't understand it—they were so close in age! How come Naruto was a teacher?
"I've been your team leader forthree years now, Kona. I don't see why you're bitching, still." Naruto folded his arms across his chest and huffed, then grinned. "We're not going on a mission, in any case. I just want to visit some people, and you lot are coming with."
"Why?" Moegi growled, putting her hands on her hips. "Can't we please just have a day off?"
"Think of it as a field trip," Naruto said, still grinning.
"I bet you just don't want to go alone," huffed Moegi, glowering.
"That's part of the reason." The grin hadn't left his lips, and it was obvious the smile was pissing the young girl off. Naruto didn't seem to care—in fact, it was apparently amusing him. "In any case, an old friend of mine is coming with us."
Konohamaru perked up. "Don't tell me you've finally gotten on Sakura's good side..!"
"Nope!" Naruto said cheerfully. "Someone a bit more important—well, not that Sakura's not important, or anything. In any case, he and I go back a long way."
"He?" Udon repeated, looking thoughtful. "Shikamaru?"
"As if Ino would let him go for that long. No, someone much more important."
"He said he, stupid."
Sasuke fell in step beside Naruto, running his fingers over the designs on his ANBU mask. His expression, per usual, was utterly flat.
"I should have known you would be a team leader for a bunch of brats."
Naruto sighed. "So much for being legends."
"I think they're just stupid."
The team fell silent when they realized they were five instead of four, and stared at Sasuke in surprise. The ANBU stared back, unimpressed.
"How old are they?"
"They still act like they're ten."
"Blame their parents, not me." Naruto leaned against the trunk of a large tree, watching the other four stare at each other.
"Why is he coming?" Moegi asked. Her voice was laced with doubt, and Udon was glaring at Sasuke with unbridled revulsion. It was hard to trust someone who was once a hero, but who abandoned Konoha when they needed him the most. Only someone so loved could be so hated.
Konohamaru didn't seem to mind, however. Perhaps he didn't care because Naruto didn't care.
"Because I invited him," Naruto calmly said.
"I'm not going," Moegi snapped.
Naruto sighed and pushed himself from the tree, strolling in front of Moegi. He put his hands in his pockets and leaned down, so that they were eye to eye.
"Listen here." They all did, even Sasuke, when Naruto used that tone of voice. "There will be times you'll be forced to work with people that you hate. You may find yourself having to put trust into someone who had once tried to kill you. It could be that your most trusted ally was also once your most despised enemy. But, as a ninja, you will never put your personal feelings ahead of your mission. That just spells out failure."
Sasuke snorted quietly behind him. It was amazing that Naruto could say that, now, when years ago he committed the same mistakes his students were intent on committing.
"Are your brats coming?" asked Naruto, turning back to Sasuke.
The ANBU shrugged. "They're already waiting at the gate. You're the one who's late."
"Konohamaru, Udon, Moegi, you remember Junsuke, Hikaru, Suzumi, right? You were all in Iruka's class together, hn?"
Suzumi, a frighteningly small young lady shrugged. She barely reached Konohamaru's shoulder, even with her copper hair piled atop her head like so. "Yeah, we had class together." Her voice was breathy and sweet, and Naruto could see Konohamaru and Udon fall in love with her at first sight. Moegi huffed and folded her arms over her chest.
"She's like a female version of you," Naruto murmured to Sasuke, and the ANBU rolled his eyes. Without answering, Sasuke shoved his hands in his pockets, and started down a trail they had taken so long ago.
"You didn't tell them just why we were going to Wave Country, did you?"
"I said I needed a vacation." Naruto grinned slightly. "I don't think they would have agreed to a job like this one."
"I'm surprised we did."
Naruto grinned and folded his hands behind his head, continuing forward. "No you're not. Wave Country is important to both of us, and we would have accepted this job offer even if they were unable to pay us period."
The blonde fell silent, then frowned. His skin was crawling and tingling, and felt remarkably warm. It was almost as if the kyuubi was rubbing against his cage, like a large cat marking its territory. He didn't want to know how he knew the fox was doing this. Annoyed, he whirled around and met eyes with Junsuke, and the young man looked surprised.
"Sasuke," Naruto growled. "You didn't tell me one of your brats could talk to demons."
Sasuke looked as startled as he could, which actually merely constituted of him raising his eyebrows. "I didn't think you would notice."
"He tried to talk to the kyuubi."
Sasuke sighed and fell back to clock the back of the boy's head. "Idiot."
"I-I didn't realize he had such a powerful demon in him," Junsuke stuttered, quietly. His teammates were watching now, with slight worry. It seemed the other two were violently protective of Junsuke, despite the young man's appearances. Junsuke looked as if he could easily take care of himself.
"Cool!" Konohamaru shouted, and Junsuke jumped slightly. "Did it say anything interesting? I thought only Naruto could talk to the kyuubi!"
Junsuke blushed and edged beside Hikaru, looking faintly embarrassed. "I...I wasn't able to talk to him."
"Anyway," Naruto grumbled, turning back around and resuming their trek. He left the kids a suitable distance behind him, not too far, but not too close. Sasuke fell in step beside him, twirling a kunai idly on a finger. "What else can your brats do?"
"Suzumi's technique has to do with hypnosis, and Hikaru specializes in chakra bombs."
"Mine are better."
Sasuke snorted, pushing his kunai back into its proper place. "Oh, yeah? I've heard about them. Konohamaru seduces his enemies, and Udon's like a tax official gone to hell. Moegi's the only one with real talent, so I hear."
Naruto sniffed in disdain. "Well, you heard wrong." He didn't elaborate, at a risk of degrading himself, and Sasuke didn't bother to answer Naruto's defense.
"Are we walking all the way to Wave Country?" Moegi complained loudly, from the rear, and Naruto pressed his fingers to his temples. "My feet are starting to hurt! Couldn't we have rented a carriage?"
"What do we look like, that we're made out of money?" Naruto called back. "We're not walking to Wave Country, I don't even think that's possible. We're taking a boat."
"Like one of those neat steam-powered ones?" Konohamaru added, excitedly.
"No, more like a 'put-put' boat."
"Real mature, Naruto," Sasuke ribbed, and Naruto sighed. It was going to be a long journey.
"I think I'm going to be sick."
"Don't you dare puke on me, Hikaru!"
The boat went 'put-put-put'. In circles. Naruto was steering.
When they finally reached solid land, not one of the students wasn't a faint green color. Even the most apathetic ones, such as Suzumi, wobbled and swayed as if they were drunk. Sasuke and Naruto, however, merely stepped off the boat and stretched.
"You ruined my team," Sasuke said, putting his hands on his hips and looking down at his three groaning students. Naruto peaked at them from over his old friend's shoulder and shrugged.
"Think of it as an experience to toughen them up."
"You could have refrained from doing donuts in the middle of the ocean, stupid."
Grinning cheekily, Naruto started down a well-traveled path towards a home he hadn't seen in a long time. Sasuke kept pace and, whimpering, the students followed after. Junsuke and Hikaru were supporting each other, while Konohamaru and Udon waveringly fought to help Suzumi. Moegi dragged herself behind her two teammates, glaring daggers at the young lady that was stealing all their attention away.
When they entered civilization, crowds of people who were edgily going on with their every day business turned and stared, and whispered to their neighbors.
"There's that Naruto kid!"
"My, he's grown quite a bit!"
"He's quite handsome..."
Naruto stood a little straighter, tilting his head up and walking smugly. His eyes were slit closed, and his grin was as broad as ever. His teammates looked around in surprise, unused to the attention their teacher was getting. Usually, the general population merely ignored him or offered tentative smiles. Never before was he regarded as...a hero.
"Looks like they haven't forgotten," Sasuke murmured as the crowd parted to let them through.
"Gods, this feels great." Naruto basked in the attention, loving it.
"Naruto!" A booming voice shook the crowd, and the already tense students jumped. They were ninjas, used to walking in silence, but it seemed as if everyone here was paying close attention to the sound of their footsteps.
"Old man!" Naruto crowed back, darting towards the voice. Tazuna, a bit more aged but still looking as strong as ever, caught the blonde in a tight hug.
"Look at you! I'd recognize you anywhere, with that dopey grin," Tazuna boomed, then grinned heartily, smacking Naruto on the back. Naruto stumbled a couple of steps forward, grimacing. "I may be old, brat, but I can still kick your butt."
Naruto huffed, but he was all grins. "Where's Inari?" Sasuke and the others were strolling up to Tazuna and Naruto. Surprisingly, Sasuke was wearing a small grin, and he accepted the large hug Tazuna gave him without complaint.
"He's at the bridge," Tazuna said cheerfully. "Keeping the demons at bay. He's devised a new force-field, see—"
"Demons!" Moegi squawked. "I thought you said this was a vacation!"
"Well, it kind of is," Naruto responded, cheerfully. But the glint in his eye told her to keep respectful. "See, we're not exactly getting paid much for it..."
"Hm, you told me you were a teacher in that letter you wrote last, but I didn't realize your kids would be as bratty as you are!"
"Skillful brats," Naruto corrected.
"We should have suspected," Moegi ranted, pacing. "Why would Naruto want to go on vacation with Sasuke—"
Konohamaru opened his mouth.
"—and us? It just doesn't make sense!"
Konohamaru shut his mouth, then grinned sheepishly at the dirty look Sasuke was giving him.
"Demons," Junsuke murmured quietly, looking in the direction of the bridge. His eyes cleared completely, the colors of his irises seeping away. "There's a lot. But..."
"But Inari's holding them off right now," Tazuna said, tone serious. "Although most of the villagers are willing to help, they're just no match against demons."
"Are we any match for demons?" Suzumi asked, thoughtfully.
"Of course we are!" Moegi snapped, straightening. The pallor of her face told another story.
"That was a rhetorical question, and besides, you don't know that. Have you ever been up against a demon?"
"If you can't handle it," Tazuna said, catching the students' attentions, "then you're welcome to stay at my house, anyway. I appreciate that you made this journey, but we can't have cowards protecting the village."
The students fell silent, looking abashed. Shame on them for fearing.
"Now, now," Naruto said, "it's all right to be afraid. After all, bravery comes from fear. Anything else is just stupidity."
"..shut up, Sasuke."
"Come to my house. I'll let you know what's going on, there."
"Naruto's name brings a lot of attention from the Underworld, it seems," Tazuna said, adjusting his glasses. Sasuke, Junsuke, Hikaru, Suzumi, Moegi and Udon were all crowded around the table, watching Tazuna intently. Naruto and Konohamaru had disappeared off, somewhere. "Demons of all sizes and ranks have been trying to use The Great Naruto Bridge as a crossway from the Underworld to our world. It's super annoying, and making us lose business."
"That's interesting," Sasuke murmured, furrowing his eyebrows together in thought. "How do you figure they know about the..." He trailed off, unsure of whether or not Tazuna knew, and if he didn't, if it would change the older man's opinion of Naruto.
"..kyuubi?" Tazuna smiled slightly his guests' surprised reactions. "Give me more credit than that. I'm an old man, and the news of the kyuubi isn't exactly what you would call 'small business'. Word gets around, that's how I know about it. That's probably how the demons know about it. Whatever. They got it in their head that because they were once buddy-buddy with kyuubi, they could now use his human's bridge as a transport."
"That's crazy!" Moegi protested.
"I'll have to agree on this one," Udon murmured, quietly. His hands were folded neatly on top of the table. "What they want is completely illogical. Boss isn't the demon."
"Demons don't have to be logical," Tazuna said, logically. "They don't care."
"So our job is to...?" Hikaru asked.
"Fight the demons. Convince them to go back to their world. Whatever you do, just keep them from our world."
They all fell into edgy silence, lost in their own thoughts, and Inari's room exploded.
"Gods!" Hikaru yelped, and Junsuke jumped slightly. Unsurprisingly, Konohamaru came charging down the hall and right out of the house.
"Gotta go bye!"
A moment later, Naruto came tearing after him. Sasuke, having expected this, intercepted and caught him around the middle before he could get too far.
Naruto flinched and squirmed.
"What did you do?"
"Nothing! It was all the brat's fault!"
Sasuke obviously didn't believe him. With a sigh, he left the room to check the damage, leaving Naruto to grin nervously at Tazuna.
"It's nothing permanent, don't worry!"
Konohamaru was lost.
To give the boy some credit, it was the first time he had ever been in that part of the world. Naturally, he knew Konoha like the back of his hand (it helped that he had a map on it sketched there for five years of his life), but anywhere else it was like left was right and right was left. Therefore, while had had originally been heading towards the industrialized part of town, he ended up in a forest.
Annoyed, he scuffed his feet and thumped back against a large tree.
He would have the luck of getting himself lost in a part of the world he had never even really heard of, except in passing from Naruto.
He also would have the luck of suddenly being eye to eye with a tired looking black haired boy, who was scowling and holding a ward up to his nose.
"Woah, woah! Who the hell are you?" Konohamaru held his hands up in a protective stance, eyes wide. "And why is your hat so damn tacky?"
"Are you Inari?"
The boy's eyes narrowed at the comment about his hat, and a moment later Konohamaru found himself immobilized with a ward stuck across his nose.
"Who are you? And how do you know my name?"
Konohamaru wondered how Inari expected him to answer when he couldn't even move his lips. He gave what he hoped was a drab look, even though he had a feeling it was merely a statuesque glare.
"Are you a demon? If you are, I'm getting really tired of dealing with your kind and I'm really willing just to kill you."
Konohamaru continued the statuesque glare.
"Aren't you going to say anything?"
Konohamaru wondered about his sanity.
They stood for a long moment in complete silence, the only sounds being the nature above and around them, Konohamaru quiet because he didn't have a choice and Inari quiet because he seemed to have run out of things to say.
Inari frowned, and reached over to pull the ward off his nose.
Immediately, Konohamaru sagged against the tree, glaring for all he was worth at Inari. "I am not a demon!"
"Prove it," Inari drawled, not seeming the least bit apologetic for warding someone who may not have been an enemy.
"I'm a ninja! Naruto's my teacher!"
Inari's eyes lit up, which was surprising to Konohamaru. The boy didn't look as if he was capable of any emotions. "Naruto's here? Already?"
"Yes," Konohamaru growled, the guilt of accidentally blowing up this boy's room completely vanishing. For all he was concerned, Inari deserved it.
"Will he recognize you?"
"Yes, for crying out loud!"
"All right," Inari said, starting in a direction that, to Konohamaru, seemed opposite of the one to his house. Then again, Konohamaru also thought that the town was in this direction, so he reluctantly followed the boy. "But if he doesn't, and you're just a demon trying to trick me, I'm going to kill you."
"Big talk," Konohamaru grunted, shoving his hands in his pockets and slouching. "You couldn't even get me on my knees."
Inari paused and looked at Konohamaru, slowing, letting his eyes trail down his body. He snorted. "..I wouldn't want you on your knees."
It took a moment for that the sink into Konohamaru's head, and when it did, he blushed to the roots of his hair. "I didn't mean it like that, you pervert!"
The girls found themselves left in the kitchen by themselves as the boys surveyed the damage done to Inari's room. Sasuke's voice carried down the hall, angrily chastising Naruto for being so careless in their host's house, and Tazuna was laughing heartily.
Moegi and Suzumi stared at each other.
"Why don't you like me?" Suzumi asked, voice indicating that she was not sure if she should bother caring or not. Moegi seemed to have already gotten it in her head that she didn't like the smaller girl, and Suzumi doubted she could change the other girl's mind if she tried.
Moegi scowled. "I do too like you."
"Very convincing," Suzumi scoffed, folding her arms across her chest. Which, Moegi noted with jealousy, was much more ample than hers. "Are you jealous because the boys like me?"
Again Suzumi scoffed. "You are, aren't you? Well, you don't really have to worry about it."
"I'm not worried about it!" She paused and gave Suzumi a sidelong glance. "Why shouldn't I worry?"
"...I'm not interested in boys."
Moegi had nothing to say to that, except a meek, "oh." Immediately, shamed, she deflated. "Um, so, are you saying you're interested in me...?"
"Don't flatter yourself."
Immediately, Moegi straightened. "Hey!"
"Your breasts are far too small."
"And your personality stinks."
"That's quite shallow of you," Moegi snapped, folding her arms over her chest protectively. She liked her chest.
"Now there's a popular misconception. Just because I like girls doesn't mean I can't be picky." Suzumi leaned back against her chair, folding her arms behind her head. "And, for your information, I personally get rather annoyed when girls ask me if, because I like women, I like them. I don't go after heterosexuals because I know I don't have a chance, and to me that would be like lusting over a statue."
Moegi bit her lower lip, feeling more than a little chastised. "I'm sorry..."
"Don't worry about it. Like I said, it's a popular misconception." She grinned suddenly. "I wonder how Konohamaru's going to handle it when people find out he swings."
"Kona's not gay! Come on, he was practically all over you!"
Suzumi grinned. "That's how I know he likes boys."
"He seemed infatuated with me, yes, but I saw him making eyes at Junsuke. But Jun's already with Hikaru..."
"Wait, wait. Are you telling me your entire team is gay?"
"Well, I suppose."
"What has Sasuke been feeding you?"
Suzumi laughed, rocking back in her chair. "Cute, very cute. Speaking of, though, I've got a feeling Sasuke has a thing for Naruto..."
And, at that point, Suzumi and Moegi leaned over the table, gossiping while Sasuke and Naruto argued loudly in the other room.
.end chapter one.
Another ongoing fic. Don't ask, I just wanted to go for something more humorous than what Byakko's coming out to be. Also, I always wanted to write a fic with Konohamaru and Inari as primary characters...
Disregard Ebisu for now. I hadn't read up and didn't know he was originally teaching Konohamaru's team.